Tourist trips and movie tickets boost consumption during eight-day Chinese New Year holiday

Tourist trips and movie tickets boost consumption during eight-day Chinese New Year holiday

The Chinese Lunar New Year holidays saw a film box office of more than CNY2 billion, including pre-sales, according to film tracking site Dengta, while tourists have flocked to scenic areas across the country with tickets at some popular spots quickly being sold out. The surge of moviegoers has already propelled China's box office to a new height in the new year, the Year of the Dragon. Eight films are featuring on the silver screen during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, which started on February 10 and will run until February 17, led by highly anticipated Pegasus 2, directed by Han Han and starring Shen Teng, and Yolo, directed and starring Jia Ling, who recently topped domestic social media for losing 50 kilograms to shoot the movie. The two films combined contributed over CNY1.4 billion to the total box office as of February 11 in the afternoon. Another major contributor is Boonie Bears: The Wild Life, which continued the success of the Boonie Bears franchise, known for its comic and educational content, earning more than CNY400 million. Following closely behind was Article 20, directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Lei Jiayin and Ma Li, which garnered over CNY300 million in ticket sales. The average ticket price dropped slightly to CNY52.8. The annual Spring Festival Gala TV gala set a live broadcast record, with 1.689 billion total views.

Another highlight of the holiday is going sightseeing. Local media reported that tickets for Suzhou Museum in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, have been fully booked until February 15, while tickets for the city's must-go Humble Administrator's Garden were only available after February 14. The authority overseeing the management of Wawu Mountain in Sichuan province is also calling on tourists to avoid the peak period as its tickets have been sold out in advance. The Emperor Qinshihuang Museum, a popular scenic spot in Xian, Shaanxi Province, announced that tickets had sold out until February 15. The CCTV Spring Festival Gala has made the co-host cities, Xian, Kashgar in Xinjiang, Changsha in Hunan and Shenyang in Liaoning popular as tourist destinations. A report released by the China Tourism Academy projected that the total number of domestic tourist trips will exceed six billion in 2024, with the combined number of inbound and outbound tourist trips expected to surpass 260 million. Consumption during this year's holiday could surpass the figure for pre-Covid 2019, starting the Year of the Dragon on a high note, and providing a solid base for further economic recovery during the year, the Global Times reports.

On February 10 – the first day of the new year – sales of movie tickets via jumped by over 300% year-on-year, while travel and airport pick-up bookings also rose 102% and 75%, respectively, which mirrors soaring travel consumption during the holidays as localities organize abundant activities, including lantern shows, flower and temple fairs, as well as dragon and lion dances. Those three indexes were all “significantly higher” compared to 2019.

Inbound and outbound travel also recorded a new high in recent years. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, which all offer mutual visa exemption to Chinese tourists, are among the hottest overseas destinations. It was expected that 5.5 million passenger trips would be made nationwide on February 10, and an additional 176 passengers trains were added that day, according to China Railway. That compared with 2.77 million rail passenger trips on the first day of Year of the Rabbit on January 22, 2023. During the 40-day Spring Festival travel period – which started on January 26 and will end on March 5 – the national railway system is expected to complete 480 million passenger trips, increasing by 37.9% compared with 2023, according to China Railway. The country is expected to see a total of 9 billion passenger trips during the ongoing travel period, likely hitting a new high, according to a Ministry of Transport forecast, as reported by the Global Times.

For those Chinese travelers heading abroad, the possibility of using Chinese payment platforms such as Alipay and WeChat Pay for booking hotels, hailing taxis, shopping at supermarkets and duty-free shops, and even dining at many small restaurants, is a huge advantage, as most Chinese are accustomed to using digital payments and no longer carry cash in China. More than 5 million merchants worldwide accept payments via Alipay, and Chinese tourists can enjoy one-stop taxi-hailing services in more than 2,000 cities worldwide, a manager from Ant Group said. From January 2018 to October 2022, more than 50 countries and regions filed 190,000 patents related to financial technology. Among them, China accounts for 107,000 patent applications, ranking first, according to a report by the Central University of Finance and Economics in December 2023.

On the other hand, foreigners traveling in China, who have not linked their bank or credits cards to online payment services Alipay or WeChat Pay face difficulties paying with cash or international credit cards. And even if they do, there are still some restrictions if their Alipay or WeChat Pay apps are not linked to domestic bank cards. Using QR codes registered to individuals and fund transfers between individuals on WeChat Pay are blocked if not linked to a domestic bank card. The mobile-payment penetration rate in China has reached a world-leading 86%. Foreigners who link international cards to mobile-payment apps are charged a 3% service fee for transactions over CNY200, and single transactions over CNY6,000 cannot be processed. Withdrawing cash from ATMs has also become more of a challenge with the steady decline of the number of ATMs since 2019. Central bank figures show the nationwide total dropped below 1 million for the first time in 2021, and by 2022 there were fewer than 900,000. Several thousand more were eliminated in each quarter last year, according to the South China Morning Post.