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Time for holiday wanderlust

Yang Feiyue
Updated: Jan 27,2016 9:36 AM     China Daily

Harbin’s Ice and Snow Amusement World draws crowds with hundreds of ice and snow sculptures.[Photo by Tian Weitao / China Daily]

This Spring Festival will be Hao Hai’s first one spent overseas.

The 37-year-old Beijinger will spend eight days with his family in Tokyo and Hakone.

“Many of my friends will travel over the weeklong holiday and advised me try it, too,” he says.

He got his visa two weeks after he submitted documents to a middleman on China’s biggest e-commerce website, Taobao.

“That’s why I decided to go,” he says.

Phuket Island in Thailand is among the popular destinations for travelers during this year’s Spring Festival holiday.[Photo by Pan Meifang / China Daily]

Outbound surge

Hao will join the Chinese expected to make a record 6 million visits outside the mainland during the festival, which starts on Feb 7, online travel giant Ctrip reports. There were 5.2 million travelers who left the mainland during the holiday last year, a jump of 10 percent over 2014, the China National Tourism Administration says.

Chinese will visit more than 100 countries and regions-even Antarctica-during this year’s holiday, Ctrip says.

The ancient city of Xi’an is among the popular destinations for travelers during this year’s Spring Festival holiday.[Photo by Yuan Jingzhi / China Daily]

Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Southeast Asian countries remain popular destinations. Many families have booked trips to Singapore through Ctrip to enjoy the city-state’s warm weather and its large theme parks, such as Universal Studios.

Based on Ctrip’s bookings as of mid-January, the 10 most-popular destinations outside the mainland were: Thailand; Japan; ROK; Taiwan; Singapore; Hong Kong; the United States; Indonesia; Malaysia and Australia.

Bookings have increased for countries that have simplified visa procedures, including the US, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, Ctrip’s publicity manager Yan Xin says.

Over 10,000 Chinese booked trips to Thailand through Ctrip.

But the second case of Middle East respiratory syndrome contracted by a tourist in the country announced on Jan 26 may curb the number of Chinese visitors.

(The patient is from Oman.)

The Chinese embassy in Thailand has advised tourists to purchase travel insurance.

Cruise bookings have more than doubled, Ctrip reports. Over 90 percent sail to Japan and Korea.

The tropical city Sanya is among the popular destinations for travelers during this year’s Spring Festival holiday.[Photo by Sun Qing / China Daily]

“Most Chinese aboard hope to relish the cherry blossoms of Okinawa and Kagoshima,” Yan explains.

Cruises enable visa-free visits to certain Japanese ports and to ROK’s Jeju Island.

Ctrip forecasts average per-capita spending will surpass 10,000 yuan ($1,520).

Antarctic visitors may spend up to 300,000 yuan.

Japan, Thailand and ROK are expected to be leaders in inbound-Chinese tourism revenue.

Over 450,000 Chinese splashed out nearly 6 billion yuan in Japan last Spring Festival, Japanese media report. Shopping is a major activity, and Chinese will pack duty-free shops and outlets.

Domestic destinations

Fujian’s Xiamen has, for the first time, taken the top spot among domestic destinations, major travel agency Tongcheng Network Technology reports.

Tropical Hainan province’s coastal city Sanya, which has dominated the list for years, is No 3, after Beijing. (The list is based on bookings up to mid-January.)

Visitors are divided roughly evenly among those seeking warmer weather and those seeking winter wonderlands.

In addition to Sanya and Xiamen, snowbirds will fly to Guangdong province’s capital, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen city to bask in the balmy weather. Families are expected to pack Guangzhou’s Chimelong Safari and Paradise parks.

Snow bunnies will hop to Northeast China’s chilly locales, such as Jilin’s provincial capital, Changchun, and the nearby Changbai Mountains, and Heilongjiang province’s capital, Harbin.

Harbin’s Ice and Snow Amusement World draws crowds with hundreds of ice and snow sculptures, including a village’s worth of multistory buildings fashioned from LED-illuminated ice blocks. The city ranks No 4 among domestic destinations this holiday.

Nearby Yabuli Ski Resort is expected to draw crowds, since China’s winning bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics has inspired more people to get into winter sports.

Prices will peak in pace with the number of travelers who’ll depart on Feb 8 and 9, when the volume of trips is expected to be twice that of other days during the festival.

Take Ctrip’s package to Sanya from Shanghai. It costs about 3,000 yuan on Feb 5 and nudges toward 5,000 yuan on Feb 7. It tops out at up to 8,000 yuan on Feb 9-before tumbling toward 2,000 yuan.

“A three-member family can save up to 10,000 yuan if they travel before the Lunar New Year’s Eve or after Feb 11,” Yan says.

That said, crowds are a constant at domestic destinations during the entire holiday.

This adds appeal to overseas’ destinations like Japan.

Hao plans to take his wife and daughter to Disneyland, watch Tokyo’s light show and shop.

They’ll visit the Tokyo Tower and drop by the University of Tokyo so his daughter can experience an international university’s environs.

He chose Hakone to experience hot springs and Fujiyama for its landscapes.

“If it’s fun, I’ll consider traveling overseas during future Spring Festivals too,” he says.

Rankings

MAINLAND

1. Fujian province’s Xiamen

2. Beijing

3. Hainan province’s Sanya

4. Heilongjiang province’s Harbin

5. Yunnan province’s Kunming

6. Sichuan province’s Chengdu

7. Jilin province’s Changchun and Changbai Mountains

8. Shaanxi province’s Xi’an

9. The Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region’s Guilin

Source: Tongcheng Network Technology

OUTSIDE

1. Thailand

2. Japan

3. The Republic of Korea

4. Taiwan

5. Singapore

6. Hong Kong

7. The United States

8. Indonesia

9. Malaysia

10. Australia

Source: Ctrip

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