"Right from the Spring Festival period in February, hotel room bookings for the Labor Day holiday in May started to increase significantly. That's because many cities had requested local residents to stay put wherever they are and reduce traveling during the Spring Festival, in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. This created enormous pent-up demand for travel. With the situation now better, people want to travel," said Lan Xiang, data research director of Qunar.
Starting Wednesday, the number of travelers boarding flights will surge, with departures expected to peak on Friday, and recede a bit on May 1, Qunar found.
The rebound in domestic travel has boosted the confidence of market players who had a rough year in 2020. Still, travel agencies are waiting for pandemic-related curbs overseas to be lifted so that international travels could resume, which will further buoy their business.
For outbound trips, the popularity of the Macao Special Administrative Region peaked beyond the 2019 levels. Since September last year, Chinese mainland tourists were not subject to 14 days of quarantine on arrival in Macao, and could return to the Chinese mainland without any need for quarantine.
Since April, the person-time bookings of trips from the Chinese mainland to Macao soared a staggering more than 1,500 percent year-on-year, Fliggy found.
"The tourism sector has a long industrial chain, and it involves multiple segments such as catering, entertainment, transportation and shopping. Developing the tourism sector could drive the growth of other related sectors and create more jobs. It has great significance for the high-quality development of the national economy, social harmony and stability," said Fu Yifu, senior analyst at the Suning Institute of Finance.
"The return of the balmy weather and effective control over the pandemic situation in China have significantly boosted Chinese consumers' willingness to travel. Besides, sightseeing spots have established comprehensive security measures and pandemic response mechanisms," Fu said.
The profile of a typical traveler in China is getting increasingly younger. Among those who have booked Labor Day holiday trips, travelers born after 2000 have surged more than 570 percent year-on-year in number. Their growth rate topped other age groups, Fliggy found.
Besides visiting popular sightseeing spots, young people also like music festivals. Not surprisingly, more than 20 music festivals will be held nationwide during the Labor Day holiday, according to Alibaba's online ticketing platform Damai.
Self-driving trips also continue to set a trend. Bookings for holiday car rentals have surged more than 10 times year-on-year. Bookings for RVs spiked 540 percent year-on-year, according to Fliggy.
Moreover, nighttime trip bookings have risen along with daytime temperatures. Reservations for post-sunset leisure products surged 20 times year-on-year, it said.
Sightseeing trips for night views, night cruises in riverside cities, camping, nighttime visits to theme parks are now popular among young travelers.
Xi'an of Shaanxi province, Wuzhen of Zhejiang province, Chongqing, and Guilin of Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region figure among the bright hot spots on the nighttime tourism map, Fliggy found.
Nighttime fun enriches product portfolios of travel agencies as it is viewed as a value-added service. This, in turn, boosts other related sectors like restaurants, transportation and shopping near scenic spots, it said.
Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, said Chinese tourists are increasingly seeking personalized experiences and willing to slow down their pace of life to take in-depth trips. It's something akin to pausing and taking a deep breath, he said.
The internet is expected to further brighten the future prospects of the tourism sector by creating brand-new market segments.
"The consumption upgrade trend is expected to become the fundamental feature of the tourism market in the coming years. Smart travels that ride advanced technologies are foreseen grabbing more business opportunities. More seemingly sci-fi features will turn into reality," Dai said.