More Chinese are choosing to travel during Spring Festival rather than return to their hometowns for family reunions, a break from one of China’s most important traditions.
Since the late 1970s, Chinese have been finding jobs and settling down in economically developed cities outside their hometowns. However, Spring Festival remains an important time for family reunion. Consequently, for decades, there has been a massive movement between where people work or study and their hometowns during the 40-day travel peak.
This year, 2.98 billion journeys are expected to be made during Spring Festival.
Zhang Meng, a computer engineer in Beijing, said he spent about 15 hours booking a train ticket to his hometown in Wuhan, Hubei province.
“It’s scary. I failed,” said the 33-year-old. “So I booked a travel package for my parents, older brother and my sister-in-law to come to Beijing. The air tickets and hotel room fees nearly equal the price of a round-trip ticket between Beijing and Wuhan.”
Ctrip, an online travel agency, has labeled such a travel plan as “reverse Spring Festival”－a trip made from a smaller city to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or even overseas.
Ctrip said it has seen an 80 percent increase in those booking such trips compared with last year’s holiday. Family travel packages account for more than 60 percent of all bookings.
Alex Yan, chief operating officer of Tuniu Corp, another online travel agency, said increasing numbers of Chinese are going on trips over the holiday compared with previous years.
“Nearly 20 percent of all booked tour packages on Tuniu began their trips on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day,” he said.
Reasons behind the shift are complicated. Besides the difficulty to book tickets, many complained about new challenges brought by air pollution and even family pressure on marriage status.
“In the past, parents placed too much attention on fixed rules and formal behavior. My parents used to think it was crucial to stay at home and visit different relatives on certain days. They were very upset when I suggested traveling abroad several years ago,” said Pan Lichao, 31, who is from Chongqing and works as a researcher with a multinational company in Beijing.
“They changed their mind after I married. My husband and I have no siblings and our hometowns are far from each other. It is mission impossible for us to commute for a seven-day holiday.”
Yan of Tuniu said weather plays a factor in destination choices, and many families opt for warmer destinations away from polluted Chinese cities.
“Residents from Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang in Hebei province all chose Sanya as their top travel destination to escape the cold and smoggy weather,” he added.
Fang Yu, 30, said she thinks going back to her hometown in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region is the worst way to celebrate the holiday.
“I am not married yet. Every time I come from Chengdu, Sichuan province, to my hometown, my parents and relatives interrogate me, and even consider me weird. None of us would be happy,” she said.