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Many Spend 'Golden Week" Close to Home

While millions across the country were enthusiastic to travel a long way to see renowned historic relics and scenic spots during the week-long May Day holiday, more and more people have opted to spend the "golden week" in a less strenuous way.

Zhou Jijun, a middle-aged resident of Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, spent the holiday cooking, sleeping and meeting friends in teahouses. He only drove out of town once with his family, and that was to enjoy the sunshine, countryside and delicious food of a Yangtze River islet in the suburbs.

"I'm usually very busy taking care of my business, and the holiday is so important for me to relax and be with my wife and son," said Zhou.

Zhou said the flood of travellers during the week-long holiday put him off taking his family further afield. "Didn't you see the crowds in places like the Great Wall and the Huangshan Mountain on TV? You can see nothing but a sea of tourists' hats and banners," he said.

Wang Qiyang, director of the Leisure Economy Research Institute of the Renmin University of China, said time in the suburbs, playing sport and participating in cultural activities have become more and more popular ways for Chinese to spend their holidays.

Many urbanites are choosing to spend time off in a not-so-far-away suburban or rural area enjoying the peace and quiet and local food. Wang estimated there are at least 100,000 rural families offering food and accommodation and other leisure services targeted at urbanites. The National Tourism Administration has made rural tours a focus of the tourism industry this year.

Most stadiums, gyms, community sporting venues and bookshops were also full of people during the May Day holiday.

"The focus of 'golden weeks' is shifting from travelling and sightseeing to leisure and relaxation, as people's options become more diverse," said Wang.

But travelling and sightseeing remains a key holiday activity.

A joint office that co-ordinates holiday affairs under the State Council estimated that a record 120 million trips were taken in the past "golden week," and that travellers spent 40 billion yuan (US$5 billion) during the holiday.

(China Daily May 8, 2006)

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