Popular tourist cities compete to attract festival travelers

Updated: Feb 2, 2024 By CHENG SI CHINA DAILY Print
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The Xingguang Night Market bustles with activity in Jinghong, Yunnan province, on Tuesday. LIANG ZHIQIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

While China's northern and southern attractions are in a tight contest to lure travelers during the approaching Spring Festival holiday that runs from Feb 10 to Feb 17, some overseas destinations have also joined the "traveling carnival" by issuing visa-friendly policies and showing goodwill gestures.

Of the overseas destinations, Singapore and Thailand may be the biggest winners after China recently announced the mutual exemption of visas with these two countries.

Chinese people holding ordinary passports can stay up to 30 days without a visa in Singapore for tourism, family visits and business trips, and the mutual visa-free policies with Singapore will come into effect from Feb 9 — the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The policy with Thailand will take effect from March 1, following a temporary visa-free arrangement currently in effect.

"It's good news and it will be more convenient for us to travel to these Southeast Asian countries in the future. I've booked a four-day trip to Singapore this Spring Festival holiday with my family members and we will depart on Feb 13 — the fourth day of the holiday — after we finish gatherings with relatives," said Liu Lei, a 32-year-old from Huangshan, Anhui province.

"I did some research online and found Singapore will organize some celebration events during the Chinese Spring Festival holiday like music shows, lantern shows and flower shows. I can't wait to experience the views and cultural atmosphere there," she added.

Fan Dongxiao, director of travel portal Tuniu's short-distance overseas travel department, said that Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia are popular among Chinese travelers and China's mutually friendly visa policies with these destinations will boost outbound tourism. She said that tour products linking these destinations, like five-day tours to Singapore and Malaysia for the Spring Festival holiday, are hot items on the platform.

Some European countries are also rising as popular choices for Chinese travelers thanks to the increasing numbers of flights, said travel agencies.

According to travel portal Qunar, hotel bookings to Russia, Spain, Italy and France for the holiday have seen continuous growth on the platform, and hotel bookings for overseas destinations peaked around Jan 10, while flight bookings peaked at the end of January. The Spring Festival holiday this year will see a consumption boom in tourism in the post-pandemic era, it said.

North European destinations with beautiful snow views and the aurora borealis including Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland are seeing skyrocketing popularity on Qunar because of people's growing passion for winter tourism.

According to Qunar, searches for distinctive hotels in North European destinations — for example, cabins with dome-like sunroofs in cedar forests — have doubled on the platform as of Jan 22 compared with the previous month, as travelers may have a better experience of appreciating the aurora borealis in these rooms.

The travel portal said that as of Tuesday, some popular domestic destinations such as Beijing and Shanghai have also seen hotel bookings more than triple year-on-year, and about 70 percent of people who booked tour products on the platform will start their trips from Feb 11 — the second day of the holiday.

Train and flight tickets to these popular destinations sold out within seconds after becoming available to travelers. Economy class flights from Beijing to Xishuangbanna and Shanghai to Dali — two popular destinations in Yunnan province on Feb 8 — a day before New Year's Eve, were already sold out, Qunar said.

Figures from online travel agency Group show bookings for the holiday to Sanya have doubled year-on-year as of mid-January. Bookings to Kunming, with its year-round spring weather, have seen a sixfold surge as of mid-January compared with the previous year, according to the group.

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