Posted on by emily Cao

China’s tourists are set to stick close to home and take advantage of discounts as they take time off for the first major holiday since the easing of coronavirus lockdowns, offering a glimpse of what travel may look like after the epidemic.

A five-day Labour Day holiday from May 1 is being seen as a test for the tourism industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus.

Travel operator Trip.com estimates about 90 million people will go on holiday for the May Day break, less than half the number who went last year.

But hotels and major travel operators said they were optimistic about presale figures, with Marriott International saying many companies were promoting “staycations”.

It’s encouraging to see signs of recovery after a long, cold winter,” said Jolyon Bulley, chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group Greater China, who told Reuters May Day bookings were showing some positive signs.

Many people were planning to visit places in home provinces or nearby cities, Trip.com said, citing ticket sales.

Half of its presold rooms were for five-star hotels, indicating travellers were seeking better quality accommodation due to epidemic concerns, it said.

They are also taking advantage of cheap domestic flights and hotel deals being offered by airlines and hotel chains eager to get people travelling again. 

Prices for popular routes such as Beijing to Sanya have been slashed by up to 90%, with booking on average 30% down, according to Alibaba Group’s travel booking platform Fliggy.

Major tourism sites and some restaurants have and been told to limit occupancy to as low as 30% of normal levels, capping any recovery.

The China Tourist Attractions Association estimates that destinations will see an 80% drop in revenue in the first quarter.

The uncertainties are not completely gone, and no one would be able to tell exactly what will happen,” said Bulley.

Recovery will continue to come in phases in China, and what we can do is to be fully prepared under the new norm.”

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