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New body to end holiday scheduling controversy

Updated: Sep 18,2014 9:24 AM     Xinhua

BEIJING — China has shut down an office tasked with scheduling its national holidays and given responsibility to a more senior group of officials, aiming to end controversy over the schedule.

Since Sept 15, the functions of the 14-year-old National Holiday Office (NHS) have been incorporated into a higher ministerial joint conference presided over by Vice-Premier Wang Yang.

Headed by the director of the China National Tourism Administration, the NHS was a ministerial coordinating conference. Holiday plans were typically made after meetings among 17 government ministries.

In recent years, the office has attracted criticism for awkwardly pieced-together holidays. When Chinese lunar holidays fell midweek, the NHS tended to create longer holidays around them and make people work weekends in exchange for the time off. Many complained that the system crushed their dreams of quality leisure time.

CONTROVERSIAL HOLIDAY ARRANGEMENTS

In 1999, the “Golden-week Holiday” was put into practice to tap the potential of the tourism market, placing new requirements on tourism management, and the NHS was born the following year.

The office was a success initially, but soon came in for criticism, said Liu Simin, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

New outrage erupted earlier this year when the NHS announced that people would have to work on the eve of Lunar New Year. The public lashed the decision, with some critics proposing to inundate the office with calls on the day to see if the staff there were working themselves.

PAID VACATIONS ON THE WAY

The establishment of the new conference, which involves 28 ministries under the State Council, has made people raise the question: how will the revamp solve the holiday arrangement quandary?

Liu said that under Wang Yang’s leadership, the new institution will be more efficient as it will see coordination among more ministries, something that is essential for an industry like tourism that involves lots of disparate aspects.

She said that the conference will also play a positive role in realizing paid vacations, which will help meet people’s travel needs and relieve pressure during Golden Week.

Eighty percent of people surveyed by travel site Ctrip.com said they prefer to travel during paid vacations instead of national holidays.

Cai Jiming, a professor with Tsinghua University, said that the new conference will take people’s opinions into account to tackle the problems regarding the tourism industry, including paid vacations.

“Pieced-together vacations might still be in existence for a while, but paid vacations are definitely the way to go,” he said.

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