Insane crowds of tourists for Golden Week?

Domestic News

China is marking its first major holiday since suppressing the coronavirus: Golden Week, kicked off by National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival, which also fell on October 1 this year. How will tourist spending stack up to last year?

nanning train station
Ahead of the National Day holiday and also the Mid-Autumn Festival, travellers crowd into a rail and bus terminal in Nanning, Guangxi, on September 30, 2020. Stringer/REUTERS

China’s National Day holiday, marking the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, is here, and the Golden Week tourist bonanza with it. This time of year is notorious in China for insanely large crowds of domestic tourists descending on the country’s top landmarks, from Beijing’s Great Wall to Xi’an terracotta warriors and Hangzhou’s West Lake. Foreign tourists are typically advised to find another time to visit.

This year, of course, is different with COVID-19. While China has not reported any locally transmitted symptomatic coronavirus cases since August 15, it still has a 75% limit on capacity for domestic tourist destinations.

  • Domestic travel overall is expected to drop compared to last year, as some still fear the “shadow of the coronavirus,” the SCMP reports.
  • The government-run China Tourism Academy “estimated that 550 million people, or 68%, of last year’s figure will travel domestically” during the holiday, while travel agency projected that Chinese people would make 600 million domestic trips during the holiday, or about 77% of last year’s figure, per Reuters.
  • However, even as tourism overall is expected to be dampened, domestic flights are booked at about 10% higher rates than last year, Bloomberg reports. This is a result of international travel, a popular vacation option for China’s burgeoning middle class, being severely limited by the pandemic and cross-country flights — to destinations like Hainan island and Tibet — becoming more popular instead.

Once the numbers are in, the tourist dollars spent in the next week will offer the “clearest measure yet of China’s recovery from the pandemic,” the New York Times says. But even 70% of the normal crowds is a sight that is unfathomable in most other countries in the world right now.

The Golden Week holiday is eight days long this year instead of the usual seven, since it coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is today.