BEIJING, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese people's rekindled passion for traveling abroad over the Spring Festival holiday has displayed the growing vitality of the Chinese economy and added optimism for the world to pull through from the economic downturn.
During the week-long holiday ending on Jan. 27, China's first long holiday since cross-border travel reopened. Outbound travel orders recorded a three-year peak to increase by 640 percent year on year, data from online travel agency Trip.com Group showed.
Overseas hotel and cross-border flight bookings surged by more than four times over the same period.
Another report from the National Immigration Administration showed rising inbound and outbound traffic. Of 2.88 million people entering or leaving the country, 1.44 million went overseas, up 117.8 percent from the same holiday period last year.
The growing traveling enthusiasm was fuelled by the country's downgraded COVID-19 response measures in early January after three years of stringent prevention and control measures.
"This Spring Festival, the world has seen a vibrant and beaming China," said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning.
"This tourism and consumption boom speaks to the Chinese passion for life and confidence in China's development, and gives the world a sense of the strong momentum in China's economic recovery and how much a strong Chinese economy means to the world," Mao said.
WINNERS OF CHINA'S OUTBOUND TOURISM
From the popular ski resort Jungfrau in Switzerland to Indonesia's Bali, countries have been holding ceremonies and performances to receive Chinese tourists. The Thai Deputy Prime Minister also welcomed Chinese tourists at the airport.
Among the destinations, Southeast Asia, which is famous for its abundant tourism resources and hospitality, has become a big winner in the Spring Festival.
According to Trip.com, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Manila, and Bali have become the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists to travel abroad during the Spring Festival, all of which are Southeast Asian destinations.
Of the outbound air ticket orders, those for Bali increased 30-fold year on year and those for Singapore by more than eight times. Many other destinations, including Manila and Phuket, also saw increases of about three to five times.
"The popularity of the Spring Festival tourism is obvious to all," said Shen Jiani, a senior researcher with the Ctrip Research Institute. "Taking this as a starting point, we believe that the confidence and potential of China's tourism consumption will be released rapidly, and the market will embrace a considerable recovery this year."
Shen believes that with the gradual increase of international flights in the future and the increasing convenience of travel at home and abroad, tourism will see a significant market boom in the May Day holiday this year.
HIGHER GROWTH EXPECTATION
The rosy forecast is not confined to the tourism industry.
After international investment banks and financial institutions, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Barclays, and Natixis, upwardly revised their 2023 forecasts for China, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Monday also lifted its growth forecast of China's economic growth rate this year.
"Growth in China is projected to rise to 5.2 percent in 2023, reflecting improving mobility," the IMF said in the newly-released update to its World Economic Outlook report. The newly-released number was 0.8 percentage points higher than the October 2022 forecast.
It said the rapid spread of COVID-19 in China dampened growth in 2022, but the recent reopening has paved the way for a faster-than-expected recovery. "Growth is expected to pick up in China with the full reopening in 2023."
The investment banking company UBS said in a recent report that as the engine of global growth, China's economic growth benefits Chinese enterprises and people and many developing and developed countries.
In 2023, China "can play a vital role in stimulating" global growth, said Hamid Rashid, chief of the Global Economic Monitoring Branch, Economic Analysis and Policy Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
In addition to outbound tourism, China's domestic consumption also experienced a massive increase. During the seven-day holiday, more than 300 million domestic tours were made in China. The box office of Spring Festival movies exceeded 6.7 billion yuan (about 992.7 million U.S. dollars), with a total of 129 million tickets sold.
"The hot holiday consumption is back again, which to some degree indicates that consumer confidence is picking up, and has made a good start for boosting the economy throughout the year," said Wang Yun, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Macroeconomic Research. ■