No place like home
The numbers of Chinese venturing overseas are still tiny compared to tourists travelling around China on domestic holidays. Data from the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) suggests that tourists made more than 2.5 billion domestic trips in the first half of last year, nearly 40 times the number of international trips over the same period.
Travel during the Golden Week holidays is particularly frenetic. Many Chinese are going home to spend time with family but visits to domestic attractions are exploding in popularity, with more than Rmb475 billion (about $75 billion) spent during the most recent Lunar New Year break, according to the CNTA.
Chaotic scenes on roads and railways are commonplace and the congestion at favourite destinations is getting worse because the facilities haven’t kept pace with the crowds of new visitors.
The authorities have been scrambling to boost investment, including a campaign to boost the provision of public bathrooms, which are mid-way through a “toilet revolution” of more than Rmb20 billion of spending at tourist sites.
It’s enough of a priority for Xi Jinping to be quoted extensively extolling the programme, with detailed reports in the state newspapers on the numbers of new toilets that have been constructed.
All the same, local holidaying can be a hair-raising experience during peak periods as crowds jostle for prime position in queues or fight over scarce tickets for entry. Post-holiday clean-up campaigns truck away hundreds of tonnes of rubbish on the days that follow.
Where are China’s favourite places to visit? More affluent locals are flooding the beaches of tropical Hainan, while history buffs and photography fans congregate on the Bund on the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu River. Water is the main attraction at the West Lake in Hangzhou (once reputed for its tranquility), while the Terracotta Warriors are the draw for visitors to Xi’an. The natural scenery pulls in tourists to places like Guilin in Guangxi and the mountain town of Lijiang in Yunnan. And of course, Beijing has the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, plus long stretches of the Great Wall to the north of the capital.
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