Summer travel rush reveals China's improving growth momentum

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Passengers wait for trains at the waiting hall of Chongqing North Railway Station in Chongqing, southwest China, Aug. 31, 2023. The 62-day summer travel rush officially concluded on Thursday. [Photo/Xinhua]

China has wrapped up a 62-day summer travel season, during which its railways handled a record number of passenger trips -- another sign of improving momentum in the world's second-largest economy.

China State Railway Group Co., Ltd. said the country's railways handled a record-high total of 830 million passenger trips from July 1 to Aug. 31 amid a boom in tourism, with parents and students eagerly embracing their first post-pandemic summer vacations.

The figure is higher than the 735 million trips recorded during the same period of 2019, and nearly twice of the 440 million recorded during the same period of 2022.

The highest number of passenger trips handled by the country's railways in a single day over the last two months was 15.69 million, according to the company.

To meet increasing travel demand, China's railways have tried to maximize their transportation potential and increase their capacities while improving services.

The country's railway operators arranged 10,269 passenger trains per day during this year's summer travel rush, up from 8,959 during the same period of 2019.

Cross-border railway passenger flows also surged, with the China-Laos Railway -- linking the Lao capital of Vientiane with Kunming, the capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province -- handling 26,000 passenger trips during the period.

The impressive passenger traffic data is further evidence that the recovery of the country's tourism sector and economic activity is picking up steam.

Domestic tourist trips this summer surpassed 1.8 billion in number, generating a total tourism revenue of 1.21 trillion yuan (about 168.52 billion U.S. dollars), according to the latest data from the China Tourism Academy.

The country's travel market this summer was significantly hotter than in the same period of 2019, with many popular destinations receiving their highest-ever numbers of tourists, according to the academy.

Compared with the summer of 2019, air ticket bookings to some popular domestic cities increased 40 percent, and hotel bookings surged 140 percent.

Dai Bin, president of the academy, said this was the hottest summer travel market seen in the last five years, boosted by unleashed pent-up demand and supportive policies for the tourism sector.

The tourism sector has become a bright spot in the country's continued economic recovery, with GDP growth picking up from 4.5 percent in the first quarter to 6.3 percent in the second quarter.

The country's purchasing managers' index for the non-manufacturing sector came in at 51 in August, standing well above the boom-or-bust line of 50 for an eighth consecutive month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Thursday.

Analysts believe the growth momentum will continue improving as the effects of the country's pro-growth policies gradually filter through.

Amid efforts to boost domestic demand and sustain economic recovery, China has come to regard tourism as a key area to revive and expand consumption at home.

In a 20-point plan unveiled in late July to spur consumer spending, the country's top economic planner pledged to introduce favorable cultural and tourism consumption measures, develop rural tourism, and scale up financial support for the tourism sector. 

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