China Riding 'Holiday Economy' Train

China's Vice-Premier Qian Qichen has used the occasion of the current week-long International Labor Day holiday to promote further development of the nation's tourism industry, saying Chinese people need to have wider access to recreation and relaxation.

The message was similar to a recent call by experts for strengthening of the nation's "holiday economy," a term that sprung up in 1999 when China lengthened its major holidays.

The experts claimed promotion of the holiday economy would contribute significantly to general economic growth.

"Tourism plays an important role in the country's economic development and the improvement of people's lives," Qian was quoted by Xinhua as saying during a tourism inspection tour in East China's Shandong Province from May 1 to 5.

The vice-premier noted that the first five days of the Labor Day holiday saw China set tourism records at nearly all of its major scenic locales.

Hotel reservations in popular tourist destinations like Guilin, Xiamen, Sanya and Zhangjiajie surpassed 80 percent as local media reported record-breaking numbers of tourists flooding into the locations.

Travel mania also led to overcrowding of railways, roads, and air and water routes, with tickets for major destinations selling out days before the holiday began.

The National Tourism Administration has predicted the number of tourists during this year's Labor Day holiday will hit 60 million, an increase of about 30 percent over the same period last year.

The tourism boom has meant fat profits for China's tourism industry and has contributed to bigger sales in tourism-related business like commerce, catering, accommodations and transportation.

Revenues from this year's Labor Day holiday are expected to hit 20 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion), a marked improvement over last year's 18.1 billion yuan (US$2.18 billion), according to official tourism statistics.

"The holiday seasons in China have contributed to the growth of China's economy as people are allured to invest in fun and relaxation," Lu Deming, a chief economist of Fudan University, explained.

Expansion of domestic consumption, coupled with exports, have been the major contributors to China's robust economic growth in the last few years, the economist said.

Lu added, however, that a holiday economy can only be built if China's tourism services are upgraded and if more cities are given the chance to take part in the holiday commercial explosion.

There are encouraging signs that this may come to pass. Media have reported that Chinese people are tending to eye the mass tourism bandwagon with greater skepticism. This has meant visiting less popular places or staying and spending more money at home. "The point is to relax. Why bother to join the hustle and bustle of heavy throngs? I prefer my own schedule, reading, sleeping and hanging out in bookstores," said Sun Xiayu, a website engineer in Beijing.

(People’s Daily 05/07/2001)

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