Hot spring resorts are now the cool place for office workers to spend their weekends during the winter.
The relatively new attraction in China has become the most popular place for local residents to book a weekend trip.
"Bookings for hot spring resorts account for about 80 percent of our weekend tours," said Li Xia, a manager at the Ctrip online travel agency.
For Shanghai residents, it only takes a few hours to reach for different hot spring resorts in the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, but all of the hotels in the resorts are fully booked for Christmas this weekend and only a few have vacancies for New Year's weekend, according to Li.
"It's one of the best winter getaways," said Li Weiming, a spokesperson for Shanghai Spring Travel. "We have tours to the hot springs every week this winter."
The trips aren't necessarily cheap, costing up to 1,000 yuan (US$123) a person, according to Li. He says it costs about 100 yuan to take a hot spring bath at the resorts. The resorts also offer massages and other spa services for an extra fee.
But money doesn't seem to be a concern for tourists, who are lining up to soak in the hot spring water on a chilly winter afternoon, and let the minerals go to work on their bodies.
"Our customers are mostly white-collar workers and company group tours," said Li. "Thus the hotels and their services are both high quality."
The hot spring tourism was first launched three years ago. Currently China has around 30 hot spring resorts.
"Travelers go there to relax and to be spiritually rejuvenated," said Li with the Ctrip.
The hot spring trend usually starts in November and will end in February.
(Shanghai Daily December 22, 2005)