A record 150 million people are expected to travel during the 20th Golden Week (May 1-7), with the numbers of people traveling overseas and those using their own cars to get to local attractions both expected to rise.
A government official said that despite the huge flow of people during the Golden Weeks and the problems arising therefrom, the holiday system would remain for at least the next few years, because "there is still a lot of potential to be explored."
Wang Kecheng of the National Bureau of Statistics, said: "The system has contributed a lot to boosting domestic consumption and demand, which makes its existence necessary."
He was speaking at a press conference attended by officials from 18 government departments.
Official statistics have shown that the past 19 Golden Weeks have contributed 670 billion yuan (US$86.7 billion) to the economy.
Zhang Xiqin, deputy director of the National Tourism Administration, said: "With per capita GDP estimated to keep growing, there is a huge potential for tourism development during the Golden Week holidays."
He said that developing tourism and expanding domestic consumption and demand was good for the economy and the trade surplus, unlike investment, "which is already overheated."
But the government's decision has not won the full support of the public.
In December, Cai Jiming, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), suggested canceling the weeklong holidays in May and October and replacing them with paid holidays. He also suggested adding four more public holidays to mark traditional festivals.
Prior to Cai's comments, on October 16, a week after the National Day holiday, an online poll conducted by sohu.com showed that 55 percent of the 9,030 votes received were in favor of keeping the Golden Week holiday system.
However, after Cai's suggestion was widely publicized on news websites in December, public opinion swayed.
A similar poll conducted by sohu.com on December 7 showed that 65 percent of the more than 40,000 votes were in favor of canceling the system.
Those in support of reforming the system reasoned that the existing public services are insufficient to satisfy demand during the Golden Weeks, so that standards of accommodation, travel and leisure are lowered.
Those in favor of the system said it ensures that every citizen receives a holiday. Without it, they said some groups would end up not getting any rest, because the current legal system would be unable to protect them from unscrupulous employers.
Zhang Xiqin said the government is considering all possible holiday alternatives and would present its findings soon.
However, he said he personally doubts the benefit of adding a few holidays or adopting the Western system of paid leave.
"The contradiction between supply and demand caused by the huge flow of human traffic is hard to resolve, but it can be eased and that is what we are doing."
(China Daily April 25, 2007)