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Travel becomes a new Spring Festival trend

By Wang Yiqing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-20 07:28

Passengers board a high-speed train in a railway station in Beijing, Jan 10, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

More and more Chinese are choosing to travel, exploring new places and experiencing new thrills, instead of visiting relatives and friends during Spring Festival. Call it a new trend if you will.

Ministry of Culture and Tourism data show the total number of domestic tourists during the Spring Festival Golden Week holiday in 2019 reached 415 million, up 7.6 percent year-on-year. Based on this figure, several online tourist agencies have forecast that around 450 million people could spend Spring Festival traveling this year.

The rise in the number of tourists during Spring Festival can be mainly attributed to China's rapid economic growth and people's rising disposable income. China's per capita GDP increased from $856 in 2000 to more than $10,000 in 2019, allowing people to spend more on travel and sightseeing.

Yet rapid economic development and rising individual income alone cannot change the traditional Chinese custom of enjoying the Spring Festival Eve dinner with family and friends. The new trend of "going out to see the world" during the Spring Festival holiday reflects the change in many Chinese people's outlook in the new era thanks partly to urbanization and modernization.

Tourism has become a popular form of leisure activity for an increasing number of people, especially the youth. According to data from fliggy.com, a major online platform providing tourism services, the number of people going on tours during Spring Festival has increased for three consecutive years, with 55 percent of such tourists belonging to the post-1990 generation. Which means youths are leading this new trend.

Given the rapid pace of urbanization and large-scale population migration in China, perhaps Chinese people's idea of home has started acquiring a new meaning. No doubt, people still value the family reunion on Spring Festival, but instead of traveling back to their hometowns for the reunion, more and more people have started to believe "home" is where all the family members are.

In fact, a recent report by Ctrip.com, another major online tourism platform, said that, thanks to the growing tourism trend, about 54 percent of the tourists using Ctrip's service during Spring Festival are expected to choose family trips.

It seems a rising number of people are eschewing the traditional custom of enjoying a dinner with members, especially elderly members, of the family on the eve of Spring Festival to spend the time traveling. Again according to Ctrip.com, this spring festival more than 30 percent of the tourists booking on the platform chose to start their trip before the Lunar New Year's Eve.

Some social factors, too, have contributed to the new trend of people choosing to travel during Spring Festival. Family and friend reunions during the festival are not only a source of immense joy but also a cause of emotional and economic stress. Conversations and gossips are part of the elaborate dinner with family and friends during Spring Festival, yet the common subjects of gossip at the dinner table are a headache for many Chinese people, especially those who guard their privacy and have become accustomed to a modern lifestyle.

A majority of single men and women, and couples without kids have to face uncomfortable questions from their elders during Spring Festival dinners, as traditionally parents and family elders have considered the festival the best time to urge youths to get married or start a family.

Moreover, the money given to children of relatives and friends as Lunar New Year gift could become an economic burden for many people, especially in rural areas. Maybe many of those traveling during Spring Festival have chosen to do so to avoid the "uncomfortable" atmosphere of traditional Spring Festival gatherings.

It is understandable that an increasing number of people are going on tours during Spring Festival to avoid the embarrassment of facing uneasy questions from the elderly. But there is no denying that family reunion is the core of Spring Festival, a fact that cannot be changed no matter whether one goes on a tour to avoid "uncomfortable" questions at the family reunion or skips the family dinner on some other pretexts.

The author is a writer with China Daily. wangyiqing@chinadaily.com.cn

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