Oct 07, 2013

    China's Golden Week loses its lustre

    MR HOU Xin, a native of Harbin city in Heilongjiang province, has been working in Beijing for eight years. This year's National Day holiday, often known as "Golden Week", was the first time that both his and his wife's parents have visited them in the Chinese capital.

    Mr Hou and his wife, Ms Yang Rui, a kindergarten teacher, had planned to show their relatives around the capital. But halfway through the seven-day holiday the four parents refused to visit any more tourist sites, complaining that they were tired of fighting the crowds.

    Mr Hou and Ms Yang were not the only ones to be disappointed with the holiday crowds and traffic. Complaints about the holiday, which people jokingly referred to as a "paid painful journey", came from all quarters.

    This year, the pain has been compounded by fog and pollution descended on northern China yesterday, leading to flight cancellations and road closures at a time when millions of Chinese were headed home as the week-long national holiday neared its end.

    The week is characterised by long lines of traffic and delayed journeys, complicated further yesterday by the partial closure of six inter-provincial expressways, including one linking Beijing and Shanghai.

    Some say the holiday does more harm than good to the health of the tourists and suggest the introduction of paid vacations instead of the current system of long, nationwide holidays.

    Although China's main tourist attractions have seen an unprecedented surge in visitor numbers, the economic contribution of Golden Week is lower than many people imagine, said experts.

    Many people travel during the holiday, but that doesn't necessarily result in an increase in total tourist revenues, according to Mr Cai Jiming, director of Tsinghua University's Political Economy Research Centre. People often reduce their spending on clothes, food, housing and education fees in order to save money for travel expenses, he said.