BIEJING: National Day, which marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China, coincides with this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival, beginning on October 1, is the country’s busiest for domestic tourism. China’s economic recovery from coronavirus has so far been driven by state-assisted industrial activity.
Travel booking platform Ctrip estimates that more than 600 million trips will be made during the eight-day holiday, which combines China’s National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival. That, however, is still only about 70 percent of the number in the same period last year, reflecting the significant number of people being home bound due to persisting economic insecurity and the fear of infection.
The country’s tourism industry is ecstatic to see what they believe could be the “busiest ever” holiday season since the COVID-19 outbreak.
“After more than half a year of prevention work and epidemic control, the holidays will see a truly ‘national movement,’ thus the meaning for the industry goes without saying, and everyone in the industry has prepared for the holidays, whether it is in product research, promotion or security assurance,” says Xu Xiaolei, manager of marketing at China’s CYTS Tours.
The week will also reflect how the pandemic has reshaped travel, turning China’s increasingly global tourists back inward. Most years, millions of Chinese go overseas during the holiday, but this year, they have little option but to stay closer to home.
“The energy has been pent-up for too long,” said Lisa Li, a manager at a Shanghai travel agency. “So we can predict that this National Day will not be relaxing at all.”
Although relatively relaxed, official restrictions still remain. Tickets for Beijing’s Forbidden City are sold out, but capacity is limited to 75 percent. Despite authorities encouraging people to mobilize, some schools are unwilling to celebrate this year’s holiday with the same fervor as before. They will grant their students only limited holidays or request permission slips to leave campus in advance.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also reminded citizens on Monday that Chinese people traveling abroad should be cautious and shouldn’t travel unless it’s necessary during the upcoming eight-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays.
Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University who closely observes epidemic control work since the COVID-19 outbreak in China began, said central and local governments have been fully prepared for emergencies.
“As long as the country does not relax its restrictions on travel abroad, it’s impossible that China will see a massive rebound in coronavirus cases in the coming months,” Yang said.
Despite a “travel carnival” being likely to remerge during the Golden Week holidays, industry players have warned that a full recovery is still unlikely and that the entire industry will continue to keep up appropriate levels of caution and vigilance along with a series of strict epidemic-control measures to minimize chances of COVID-19 resurgence.