HONG KONG, 1 February 2021: China kicked off its largest annual travel season last Thursday, with fewer passengers booking trips during the Spring Festival as authorities in many Chinese provinces persuade residents to stay home.
The 40-day peak travel season started 28 January. It closes with the Lantern Festival 26 February. Chinese New Year sits in the middle on 12 February although the shoulder public holiday runs from 11 to 17 February.
In a move to encourage passengers to defer Lunar New Year travel, the Civil Aviation Administration ordered airlines to offer refunds or waive date change fees on air tickets to reduce domestic travel during the 40-day travel peak period.
Last Thursday, the first day of China’s Spring Festival travel rush, billed the world’s largest human migration, Global Times reported 551 flights departed Beijing Capital International Airport with 37,600 passengers. It represented only 13.7 of the first day of the travel rush compared with last year’s Spring Festival travel rush (10 January 2020) that generated 273,600 passengers departing on the first day.
The airport expects to process around 22,000 flights with 1.93 million passengers during the travel rush this year, a 60% decrease in passengers and a 40% decrease in flights compared to the same period in 2020.
The Shanghai Spring Festival Transport Office predicted that 35.7 million passengers are expected to travel in or out of Shanghai during the 40-day travel rush.
The volume shows a large rebound from the 2020 performance, but there is still a substantial drop when compared with 2019, Global Times reported.
According to local media, China’s transport ministry is forecasting a big fall in travel during the Lunar New Year period.
Passenger travel will see a “significant decrease” to around 1.15 billion journeys, or a daily average of about 28.8 million during the 40-day travel period. It reflects a 20% decline from the Lunar New Year in 2020 and more than 60% off the 2019 performance.
The latest forecast is also significantly lower than the 1.7 billion journeys that the transport ministry was predicting as recently as last week.
China’s outbound group tour market remains closed, and experts say it could stay that way as the government is in no hurry to authorise outbound travel firms to resume operations.