China's tourism market may reach a turning point during the New Year's Day holiday as people seem more keen to travel across provinces and regions amid the recently optimized COVID-19 response measures.
According to travel portal Trip.com Group, nearly 60 percent of its users have booked cross-province tours between Dec 31 and Jan 2, a year-on-year rise of 34 percent. Group tour bookings have also increased by 46 percent compared with last year, it said.
The portal names Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu, Sichuan province, as some of the most popular urban destinations among its users.
Zhang Yili, 36, a communications engineer in Beijing, who didn't travel outside the city for a year and a half, said he will spend the holidays in Sanya, Hainan province. "My wife and I are eager to take this romantic break and usher in the New Year at the beautiful beach getaway. Our health is always my first concern and I am hoping we will be all right during the trip."
Figures from the online travel agency Fliggy also indicate people's growing enthusiasm for long-distance travel. In a recently released report, the agency said that from Dec 7 to 14, air ticket bookings for the New Year's Day holiday tripled compared with bookings made in the first week of the month for the same holiday period.
Searches for New Year-related tour packages soared six times between Dec 7 and Dec 14, the Fliggy report said.
Travel to the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions is also set to increase, thanks to the optimized COVID-19 rules for inbound travelers to the SARs, according to Trip.com Group.
The portal said that holiday bookings among its users for tour packages to Macao and Hong Kong had increased by 67 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
Industry insiders, however, remain reserved in their views on the recovery of the tourism market. Feng Rao, director of the tourism research academy of Mafengwo, another travel portal, said it had been predicted that people would want to travel long distances once the epidemic control measures were optimized.
While this trend will boost the tourism market during the New Year's Day holiday, the industry cannot fully recover overnight, and tourism operators must take into account health and safety situations, Feng said.
Wei Changren, president of online tourism consultancy company Ctcnn.com, said the current wave of infections still has the potential to upset holiday travel plans, and it will take time before the public and the tourism industry can regain their confidence.
He said he hopes the tourism market will put on a better show around spring.