Tourists go nuts during Golden Week as COVID-19 recedes from China

Domestic News

China has gone almost 50 days without a reported case of local transmission of COVID-19, and the ongoing National Day holiday, also known as Golden Week, has seen millions of tourists traveling across the country.

tourists in the bund shanghai during 2020 golden week
Tourists pack the Bund in Shanghai, China, 3 October 2020. Oriental Image/REUTERS.

China has gone almost 50 days without a reported case of local transmission of COVID-19, and the ongoing National Day holiday, also known as Golden Week due to its significant impact on consumer spending, has seen millions of tourists traveling across the country. Hordes of people have waited in insanely long lines to get into popular restaurants, and shopping-deprived consumers have embarked on huge spending sprees — an experience far different from the havoc that the virus is still causing in other parts of the world.

According to data (in Chinese) released by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism today, about 425 million domestic tourists hit the road in the first four days of the eight-day holiday, which kicked off on October 1 in the celebration of the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

While it’s a drop from 542 million in the same period last year, the travel has generated more than 312 billion yuan ($45.9 billion) in revenue for China’s tourism industry, which has been severely affected by the pandemic since the beginning of this year.

golden week 2

Images shared on Chinese social media show miles-long traffic jams on highways and massive amounts of people crowding shoulder-to-shoulder at top attractions. On Weibo, thousands of people used the hashtag “How heavy is the traffic on expressways” (#高速到底有多堵#) to share the miseries of being on the road. In a compilation of highway congestion footage uploaded by travelers, drivers can be seen leaving their vehicles to exercise and catch fish after being stuck in a sea of cars for hours.

With domestic tourist destinations operating at 75% capacity, tickets for popular destinations sold out fast. On the morning of October 3, the official Weibo account of the Great Wall of Badaling announced (in Chinese) that tickets for the day were sold out. On September 30, groups of armed police officers showed up at the Bund in Shanghai to maintain order as large crowds of tourists gathered at the location.

shanghai the bund

Business has picked up for restaurants, too. At Super Wenheyou 超级文和友 in Changsha, a beloved local spot for crayfish, lines during Golden Week have stretched so long that some customers had to wait for days to get a table.

wenheyou

Movie theaters have also seen a major revival. Maoyan, a major Chinese online ticketing platform, reported that from October 1 to October 4, China’s box office raked in 2.5 billion yuan ($368 million) with more than 62.4 million people going to theaters. According to estimates made by industry insiders, the total box office revenue during the holiday is likely to hit 4 billion yuan ($589 million), a moderate drop from last year’s 5.1 billion yuan ($751 million) given coronavirus concerns and restrictions on capacity.