Chinese cities offer cash rewards, points for school admission and other perks to stop Spring Festival travel

Domestic News

Amid fears of COVID-19 spread, a growing number of Chinese cities are offering financial incentives and other perks to persuade residents, especially migrant workers, not to travel home for family reunions ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.

spring festival travel

Amid fears of COVID-19 spread, a growing number of Chinese cities are offering financial incentives and other perks to persuade residents, especially migrant workers, not to travel home for family reunions ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday. 

Beijing is the latest city to roll out policies encouraging workers to stay in place. At a news briefing on January 27, aside from reporting four new confirmed cases and one asymptomatic case of COVID-19 in the city, Beijing’s officials announced (in Chinese) a string of measures designed to ensure a “peaceful and healthy” Spring Festival for everyone who opts to stay put. Some of the most notable ones are:

  • Businesses are expected to provide temporary employment opportunities for migrant workers, while public recruitment agencies should encourage companies to share staff and be more flexible with hiring. 
  • There will be a variety of shopping events to boost consumption. Customers who purchase certain products will receive subsidies. 
  • Discounts will be offered on a wide range of cultural products and activities, such as books, movies, sports events, and tourist attraction visits. 
  • China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom — the three major operators in the country — are ordered to give their customers in Beijing 20 gigabytes of mobile data for free. 
  • Residents in some neighborhoods will receive free goods necessary for Spring Festival celebrations, including ingredients for New Year’s Eve banquets and decorations.

Previously, other Chinese cities and provinces have taken a similar approach, using financial incentives and regulatory benefits (in Chinese) to disrupt what’s considered the most important time for family gatherings in the country:

  • In cities like Suzhou, Ningbo, and Taizhou, those who avoid returning to their rural places of origin are entitled to earn extra points when applying for permanent household registrations, also known as hukou (户口 hùkǒu). In addition, their children will be granted an advantage when choosing local schools to attend. 
  • Migrant workers in Hangzhou and Tianjin are given cash rewards up to 1,000 yuan ($154) to remain where they are during the holiday.
  • The Shanghai General Trade Union promised to hand out 3,000 “entertainment packages” and 5,000 “snack baskets” for free to migrant workers who stay behind. 

At the national level, the central government is also pulling out all the stops to convince people that it’s not too late to cancel their travel plans and that their Chinese New Year holidays still will be enjoyable while away from families. 

  • In an effort to meet people’s “spiritual and cultural needs,” the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s main economic planning body, issued (in Chinese) a notice today encouraging streaming platforms and TV networks to provide free movies and TV shows for viewers to watch over the holidays.
  • The commission also urged employers to give additional prizes and bonuses to those who work during the festival.
  • The Civil Aviation Administration of China said (in Chinese) in a statement on Tuesday that passengers with flight bookings dated between January 28 and February 3 could request full refunds or reschedule their flights free of charge.