China’s Spring Festival was one of the biggest travel seasons in the world before the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, and on Thursday, the state-run Global Times anticipated it will return to its full glory this year, with more than 9 billion passenger trips to be taken during the next 40 days.
The population of Earth is estimated to be around 8 billion people.
“From jam-packed transportation hubs to the hustle and bustle seen in markets nationwide, the anticipated booming [Lunar] New Year holidays are poised to continue the country’s steady recovery while ushering in a lively 2024,” the Global Times wrote, trying to inject some optimism into a somewhat gloomy economic picture.
The Chinese Communist newspaper saw packed airports and train stations everywhere as the Spring Festival or Chunyun season officially kicked off on Friday:
The airport will see 7.2 million passenger trips during chunyun, a growth of more than 60 percent from the same period of 2023, the airport said on Thursday, adding that overseas passenger flow will reach 1.41 million passenger trips following the implementation of visa reciprocity policies between China and many countries.
The scene witnessed by the Global Times at the airport is just a snapshot illustrating the brisk personnel flow nationwide at one of the busiest times of the year in China. Observers expected the travel rush to boost consumption for the upcoming holidays, which will inject fresh vitality and bolster the country’s economic progress in 2024.
Tourism is ostensibly surging in Singapore, which announced visa-free travel with China on Thursday, although the policy will not take effect until Lunar New Year, February 9. Heavy travel to Japan and South Korea was also expected.
The Global Times also reported heavy bookings for domestic tourist attractions, such as the ski resorts of Heilongjiang province.
Reuters noted on Friday that if China’s predictions of 9 billion domestic trips come true, it would represent a nearly 100-percent increase over travel in 2023, the first Lunar New Year holiday season since coronavirus lockdowns ended.
Reuters spoke to some Chinese travelers who confirmed planes and trains seem much more crowded this year than last. Some said there are lengthy waiting lists for air travel while booking services are charging extra fees to get passengers onto packed trains.
The far-left New York Times (NYT) dampened these enthusiastic reports slightly by pointing out that flight capacity remains at “just two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels,” so the smaller number of planes are more crowded.
“The main factor holding back international travel by Chinese will continue to be China’s economy. Growth has bounced back from the pandemic, but the weight of a severe real estate downturn has dampened consumer spending and confidence inside China,” the NYT said.
“And global geopolitical tensions remain a wild card. China is engaged in trade disputes with the United States and Europe, home to many major multinational companies. As they think twice about their business in China, travel suffers,” the report added.
Although the Chinese government is clearly eager to boost morale by having a big Spring Festival travel and shopping season this year, the NYT noted that most international analysts do not believe international travel will fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until next year.