Country experiences a drop in domestic tourist trips amid new spate of COVID-19 outbreaks
Going camping somewhere close to home and visiting parks or suburbs to appreciate the spring blossoms were among the favorite leisure activities for people during the recent Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, which saw a year-on-year decline in domestic travel amid a COVID-19 resurgence in parts of the country.
According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 75.42 million domestic tourist trips were made during the three-day break starting on April 3, down 26.2 percent year-on-year. The revenue generated fell by 30.9 percent compared to the same period of 2021 to 18.78 billion yuan ($2.95 billion).
Holidaymakers preferred destinations close to home, with 94.9 percent of them traveling within their home provinces, according to the ministry.
Outings to scenic destinations, camping in parks and outdoor sports were popular choices. According to Tongcheng-eLong online travel agency, during the holiday searches for the Qingcheng Mountain scenic area, which is more than 60 kilometers away from downtown Chengdu, soared by 284 percent compared with the same period last month.
Searches for the Beijing WTown resort, which is in the capital's suburban Miyun district, surged by 268 percent, chinanews.com reported.
Camping has seen increasing popularity in China in recent years. Figures from Tongcheng-eLong showed that during the holiday, camping-related searches grew by 98 percent compared with the same period last month, according to a report by China Securities Journal.
Rural tourism staged a strong recovery during the break, when online travel agency Qunar recorded a nearly 60 percent year-on-year increase in bookings for rural hotels and homestays, the report said.
"Even though we are the biggest hotel in the village, we barely had any vacancies on April 3 (the first day of the holiday)," the owner of a hotel in Zhenzhuquan village, Beijing, told China Securities Journal.
Xie Xiaoqing, a senior researcher at a research institute affiliated with online travel agency Ctrip, told China Securities Journal that the marked rise in rural tourism boosted the popularity of rural camping, outdoor activities and other industries, which would contribute to the development of suburban tourism.
Destinations in the country's western regions, which were less affected by the recent COVID-19 outbreaks, delivered better performances this year, Shenzhen Economic Daily reported.
Leisure travel in regions where COVID-19 had come under control before the holiday rebounded over the three days. For instance, Ctrip recorded a 718 percent week-on-week jump in bookings by users based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, during the week of March 21-27, Shenzhen Economic Daily reported.
For those cooped up at home during the holiday, technology-assisted virtual travel became an alternative.
The Slender West Lake scenic area in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, invited netizens to enjoy its views through live broadcasts.
On March 29, the Nanjing City Museum in Jiangsu made available audio commentaries for its award-winning city history exhibition on its WeChat account, which takes the listener through the past 6,000 years of the city in 82 minutes, at the cost of 10 yuan.
"It's great because you get to save the audio files for later," Li Lei, a visitor who had tried out the new feature, told the museum staff. "With in-person commentaries, you will probably forget what the curator said later on. With this, you can have a second listen or share them with your children or family."
Xie with Ctrip told Shenzhen Economic Daily that the strong performances of the western regions, the rebound of Shenzhen tourism, and the popularity of staycations and virtual travel demonstrated that the demand for leisure travel will not disappear－it only temporarily accumulates or takes on a different form.
As vacationers' preferences become more refined and complicated, it's all the more necessary for tourism businesses to shift their development models from being resource-driven to innovation-driven, Xie noted.