More than 600 million holidaymakers are said to be on the go across China, six days into the eight-day National Day Golden Week break that kicked off on October 1.
This is the first national holiday since China swiftly subdued the coronavirus and squashed resurgences since April.
This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival also fell on October 1. The double holiday has seen the middle class cut loose from work and Covid-19 blues and go on a travel and shopping binge after lockdowns and travel restrictions.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism estimated that half the population would travel during the festive period.
It appears that Beijing’s deteriorating ties with Washington have not dampened the enthusiasm of the 80,000 daily visitors to Shanghai’s Disneyland. The 390-hectare fairyland that is among the largest Sino-US joint ventures constantly leads the chart of China’s top-10 tourist attractions during the long break compiled by travel booking portal Ctrip.
The resort is the first Disneyland worldwide to emerge from Covid and resume welcoming visitors since May, when other Walt Disney Company properties across the US, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong remained shut and deserted. The park has since October 1 scrambled to enforce crowd management measures, including staggered admission as well as an online appointment system, part of its ad hoc measures to cope with surging patronage.
The number of Disney fans that can be allowed in has been capped at two-thirds of the park’s capacity. And, apparently, the 665-yuan (US$98) per person admission fee and overpriced food, drinks and souvenirs are considered worthwhile as people seek a magical, pick-me-up getaway.
Mask-wearing and social-distancing rules are more often than not shunned inside the resort as Shanghai’s government has rolled back draconian anti-virus orders.
Wuhan’s Yellow Cranes Tower, a landmark on a hilltop above the Yangtze that was built 1,500 years ago, is runner-up on the Ctrip list. Within four days of the break, an estimated 800,000 visitors flocked to the initial ground zero of the contagion.
Bargain-hunting hordes are availing themselves of the free admission at many attractions in Wuhan and across Hubei province as local cadres seek to burnish Wuhan’s image and revive the battered economy after a 76-day lockdown.
Other popular scenic spots that also made the list include Chengdu’s giant panda zoo, Wuhan’s Arctic Ocean Park, Guangzhou’s Canton Tower and wildlife zoo, Beijing’s Forbidden City and Yuanmingyuan Palace as well as Zhangjiajie Geopark in Hubei.
Guangzhou’s South Railway Station, China’s largest high-speed rail transportation node, saw 430,000 daily passengers on October 1, an all-time high when residents streamed out of the megacity to resorts and theme parks elsewhere.
Large crowds are common in many cities as people heed President Xi Jinping’s “internal circulation” call to spend the way out of economic malaise as Beijing reiterates self-sufficiency. International travel restrictions also mean no foreign outflow of China’s spending.
The Commerce Ministry is yet to crunch numbers about the nation’s consumption as the break is not yet over, but several cities including Shanghai and Guangzhou have reported better retail takings for the first four days compared with the same period a year ago.
The top leadership in Zhongnanhai, however, appears not to be worried when the entire nation gets out and about, with few still keeping up their guard when shouldering their way in shopping malls and popular hangouts.
And, most eerily, a downtown wet market in Wuhan widely believed to be the breeding ground of the Covid-19 pathogen and which has been shut since the initial outbreak has become the latest attraction with maskless hordes falling over themselves to photograph its main entrance.
A US citizen who lives in Shanghai told Asia Times that a mask culture had started to take hold among more Americans, including holdouts who previously resisted masks, following Donald Trump’s infection, but he thought Chinese had long slackened off amid the prolonged lull of the health crisis.
But there are reasons for sustained optimism, at least according to the latest official figures. No locally transmitted case has been reported in China since October 1, the start of what is arguably the world’s largest travel rush.
The National Health Commission only revealed a dozen imported cases clustering in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou with no local close contacts and hence no partial lockdowns. Wuhan is currently on its 59-day run of zero cases.