As the International Labor Day holiday approaches on May 1, Chinese travelers are finalizing their itineraries, with short-haul destinations being the top choices for vacation. This is one of the shorter national holidays in China and it comes less than a month after Tomb Sweeping Day (Qingming), which saw millions of tourists explore international and domestic destinations.
In March, the Chinese government extended the May 1st holiday to four days from three days, meaning that Chinese tourists were not able to book their trips as far in advance as they are used to. But that hasn’t stopped jetsetters from taking advantage of the extra day, which has pushed online travel agencies to adjust their offerings.
The brief holiday had already benefited nearby international destinations, as many travelers don’t have enough paid vacation days to extend the holiday further. Those who have additional paid time off, however, are likely to use three days to create a weeklong vacation farther overseas.
China’s largest online travel agency Ctrip.com International noted that the holiday will see 50 percent more trips than during Tomb Sweeping Day, reaching about 160 million. Last year, the three-day holiday saw 147 million Chinese tourists travel, an increase of 9.3 percent from the previous year.
The most popular destinations for the short holiday are islands, including Bali in Indonesia and Boracay in the Philippines, according to data from online travel agency Tongcheng-Elong. Additionally, the platform saw popularity in booking trips, Sri Lanka, though those trips may be cancelled following the recent terror attacks in the country that injured at least four Chinese citizens. Ctrip has already introduced fee-free refunds for travelers who wish to cancel their planned trips to Sri Lanka, and it is even assisting tourists already in the country.
Japan and South Korea are also expected to see an influx of Chinese visitors during the holiday. However, Chinese tourists to Japan are already encountering a lack of hotel rooms and restaurant reservations as millions of Japanese will also travel during their own weeklong holiday. This has also increased the price of available hotel rooms. Tongcheng-Elong noted that hotel rates for the week have increased in popular destinations Bangkok, Singapore, Tokyo, and Osaka, as well as in the Thai cities of Chiang Mai and Pattaya. The company added that 18.2 percent of hotel reservations on the platform are for four- and five-star hotels.
As the many travelers will opt for a brief trip, they are expected to pack as much sightseeing as possible into the limited time. This is good news for tour operators that offer evening tours that can be paired with sightseeing trips during the day.
About 49 percent of Chinese tourists have opted for trips lasting between four and six days during the holiday period, according to Ctrip. The company told Chinese media Sina that tours to some popular destinations, including those to the U.S., Europe, and Middle East, have sold out for the travel period.
Family travel platform Lvmama reported that 58 percent of its customers only booked trips for one to three days during the period. The company add, however, that it has seen outbound travel for the period grow by 8 percent from the previous year. The U.S. was the seventh most popular outbound destination on the platform.
Online travel agencies have had to adjust to the changes to the travel dates and Chinese tourists’ desire to add days to their already-booked trips. This has meant that platforms may not have available tours or hotel rooms for the extra days as they need to have deals in place months in advance.
Assuming the Chinese government maintains the four-day holiday in the following years, more Chinese citizens are likely to use their paid vacation days in the future to further maximize their travel plans.