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Tourist volume shrinks in shortened holiday
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Chinese had their fervor for holiday sightseeing cooled by a shortened vacation as tourist volume slumped nearly a quarter in the past three-day May Day holiday.

A total of 8.94 million people visited 119 monitored tourist spots around the country from May 1 to May 3, 24.45 percent down from the same period last year, the national office in charge of holiday affairs said on Saturday.

China cut the length of the May Day holiday from a week to three days from this year as part of its scheme of restructuring national holidays to avoid the overcrowding spring travel.

As a result, long-distance tours fell sharply despite an increase in short and mid-distance traveling to large cities and neighboring scenic spots, according to the office, which didn't give detailed numbers.

It said small tourist groups such as families and friends rose by a big margin while self-driving became a dominant fashion.

Hundreds of millions of Chinese used to travel at the same time during the May Day holiday and the other two "golden weeks" for the Spring Festival and the National Day, cramming transport and tourist destinations, and making holiday experiences far from enjoyable.

"A shortened May Day holiday has been effective to solve the problem, but the implementation of paid holiday policies should be guaranteed to meet Chinese' growing demand for tourism," said General Manager Chen Xiaobin of the Beijing-based Caissa Travel.

The country witnessed a record high of 179 million domestic tourists during last year's week-long May Day holiday, up 22.7 percent year on year, with retail sales rising 15.5 percent to 320 billion yuan (about 45.7 billion U.S. dollars).

China began to entitle its employees to paid holidays of five to 15 days off a year in addition to national holidays and weekends in December, when it scraped the May Day "golden week" and added Tomb-Sweeping Day, Dragon-boat Festival and Mid Autumn Festival to the list of public holidays.

The "golden week" holidays were launched in 1999 to encourage Chinese to spend more money for the benefit of economic growth.

(Xinhua News Agency May 4, 2008)

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