Friday, January 26, 2024
Web Desk

China's 9b trips signal unprecedented economic boost

As Spring Festival travel rush unfolds, holiday consumption could substantially boost China's GDP growth for the first quarter of 2024

Web Desk
Passengers wait at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia over Presidents Day weekend. The TSA screened more than 2 million people on Friday and Sunday. — AFP
Passengers wait at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia over Presidents Day weekend. The TSA screened more than 2 million people on Friday and Sunday. — AFP 

The annual 40-day travel peak, known as chunyun or Spring Festival travel rush, recognised as the largest human migration globally, is set to kick off today, with an anticipated record-breaking 9 billion passenger trips. 

The vibrant atmosphere, from bustling transportation hubs to lively markets, is poised to not only mark the Chinese Lunar New Year but also contribute to the nation's steady economic recovery in the year 2024.

At Beijing Capital International Airport, a snapshot of the anticipated travel rush was evident on Thursday. Crowds of tourists filled the departure hall, families awaited checked luggage at counters, and Year of the Dragon stickers adorned glass doors, setting the stage for a festive Chinese New Year atmosphere.

The airport forecasts an impressive 7.2 million passenger trips during chunyun, reflecting a remarkable 60% growth compared to 2023. Furthermore, the implementation of visa reciprocity policies is expected to boost overseas passenger flow to 1.41 million trips, showcasing the international dimension of this massive migration.

Observers foresee the travel rush not only enhancing the festive spirit but also acting as a catalyst for increased consumption during the upcoming holidays. The surge in tourism is evident, with stories of retirees, like Yin from Chongqing, embarking on self-driving road trips and experiencing a pre-holiday tourism boom.

The economic impact extends beyond China's borders, with the mutual visa exemption agreement between China and Singapore set to enhance tourism ties. The announcement led to a surge in searches for hotels and related services on Chinese travel platforms, indicating the positive ripple effect of such international collaborations.

Domestic tourism is also flourishing, with winter tourism, particularly in cities like Harbin, experiencing a substantial surge in bookings. The thriving chunyun is not just a testament to China's transportation development but also an economic driver, according to Jiang Yiyi, deputy head of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University.

As the nation embraces the record-high chunyun, its railway system witnesses a significant increase in pre-Spring Festival ticket sales, with 61.08 million tickets sold, marking a year-on-year increase of 159 percent.

To accommodate the surge in travel, domestic carriers are stepping up efforts, with Air China planning 67,691 flights during the 40-day peak, a 32% increase compared to 2019.

Looking ahead to 2024, experts predict that the consumption momentum witnessed in 2023 will persist. Consumption played a pivotal role in China's economic growth, contributing 82.5% to GDP growth. The cultural tourism boom, exemplified by the continuous upgrading of consumption structures, adds to the optimistic outlook for the coming year.

Provincial GDP data highlights the nationwide economic achievements, with Shanghai expanding by 5% and Guangdong surpassing 13 trillion yuan in GDP. The continuous growth of the consumption sector, especially services, is expected to drive GDP growth in the first quarter of 2024.

Cao Heping, a professor of economics at Peking University, emphasises the significance of holiday consumption in boosting first-quarter GDP growth. If the growth rate exceeds 5.2 percent, there are expectations that the overall growth for 2024 could approach 5.5 percent, surpassing some foreign institutions' estimates of 4.6 percent.

China's economy, having posted a 5.2 percent GDP growth for 2023, sets the stage for a promising start to 2024, fueled by the vitality generated during the Spring Festival travel rush.