In the first decade of the 21st century, Chinese nationals enjoyed three “Golden Weeks” – semi-annual work-free national holidays lasting 7 to 8 days. These took place during Chinese New Year, in the first week of May on International Labour Day, and the first week of October to celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. The introduction of these Golden Weeks reflected the intention of the Government to increase private consumption and to develop tourism.
However, in 2008, the Golden Week in May was removed. The extended week of holidays that was connected to the global communist movement was replaced by three Chinese traditional festivals as national holidays. The weeklong holiday was reduced to a single day, while the Tomb-sweeping Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and Mid-autumn Festival were recognized as national vacations, the exact dates each year varying according to the Chinese calendar.
In December 2018, the official holiday plan for 2019 was published, originally indicating that 1 May 2019, a Wednesday, would be again a public holiday. It took the public as well as the Chinese tourism industry by surprise when it was announced at the end of March 2019 that the Labour Day holiday schedule would be extended until 4 May 2019. However, there is still a price to be paid for the “extra” holiday as the two Sundays before and after the May holiday have now been designated as working days. Nevertheless, three work-free days for two working Sundays is still a good trade-off.
In the last few days, it was reported that according to the State Council, this change happened “in response to an appeal from the public”. Some academics have stated that the abolishment of the Labour Day Golden week had caused a loss of 75 billion USD in the tourism sector. Peng Liang, a researcher of Chinese travel service provider Ctrip, stated that tourists were too concentrated on the National Holiday in October as a result, which accordingly resulted in a strain on the public infrastructure and resources as well as relatively unenjoyable holidays for the people.
This phenomenon already seen in 2018, where the number of trips made domestically during the National Day amounted to five times that of the holiday in May. For international tourism, the one-day holiday in May had only very limited significance. The announcement of the additional May holidays prompted a race to make travel plans for the new holiday. Ctrip’s website saw a surge in the number of searches for international travel tickets, reporting an increase by five times the original amount.
For international destinations, therefore, the last-minute decision by the Chinese State Council to bring a little extra happiness to the Chinese people is certainly good news, as many Chinese travellers will make full use of the opportunity to travel abroad an extra time in 2019. Considering this exciting development in Chinese outbound tourism, it will definitely come as no surprise that COTRI ANALYTICS will report record-breaking arrival statistics in May 2019 for many destinations.
Have a lovely week ahead!
Best wishes from the COTRI WEEKLY team!