China’s tourism industry expects more than 600m trips to be taken during the October Golden Week, down a fifth from a year ago, in what will be a test of consumer demand after the nation’s success in controlling Covid-19.

The annual holiday, which begins on October 1, is the country’s busiest for domestic tourism. China’s economic recovery from coronavirus has so far been fuelled by state-supported industrial activity, while the health crisis has widened the gap between rich and poor households.

Travel booking platform Ctrip estimates over 600m trips will be made during the eight-day holiday, which combines China’s National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival. That figure represents about 80 per cent of the number of trips made in the same period last year, when the tourism industry generated Rmb65bn ($9.5bn) in revenues.

Most startling has been the recovery in tourist activity in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak emerged. Five months since the central Chinese city’s borders were fully reopened, its Yellow Crane Tower has become the most sought-after attraction for Golden Week, according to Ctrip, helped by the local government’s decision to waive entrance fees. The second top destination is Disneyland Shanghai, which reopened in May.

China’s count of new daily Covid-19 cases has mostly been below 100 since May, the smallest on a per capita basis for any large country. Travel between big cities is again commonplace. Visitors to cities are asked to show a smartphone app that displays a green signal if the user has not been abroad, or to one of the country’s remaining outbreak areas, within two weeks.

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China’s recovery from coronavirus has been helped by an extensive test-and-trace regime. Mass testing campaigns in Wuhan and Beijing have begun to restore confidence among consumers, with residents in the former even hosting large-scale parties.

But Covid-19 has altered the behaviour of some Chinese tourists, with many having switched to shorter-distance trips to minimise travel time and contact with others on crowded aircraft or trains.

Traffic — often notorious during Golden Week — is likely to be worse than usual as a result. China’s transport ministry expects 54m car trips during each day of the holiday — a 1 to 3 per cent increase from 2019. Air travel has not recovered as quickly with the number of flights made by passengers during August just 80 per cent of those in the same month a year ago.

China’s worsening inequality as a result of Covid-19 is also shown in rocketing demand for luxury hotels. Bookings are up 600 per cent from the previous year’s Golden Week in popular tourist spots Shanghai, Sanya and Chengdu, according to Ctrip. Room rates for luxury hotels in Shanghai this Golden Week are up 20 per cent year on year.

Via Financial Times