China’s holiday spending surges, brightening economic outlook

China, Chinese Lunar New Year, China's consumption market

China recently released staggering figures for domestic travel and spending during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, signaling a robust recovery in consumption and bolstering the nation’s economic outlook for 2024. The data revealed record-high levels of both domestic travel and spending, surpassing pre-pandemic levels and underlining the resilience and potential of China’s consumption market.

During the eight-day Lunar New Year holidays, which concluded recently, China witnessed an extraordinary surge in domestic travel, with 474 million trips recorded, marking a substantial 34.3 percent increase compared to the previous year. Furthermore, total domestic tourism spending skyrocketed by 47.3 percent year-on-year to approximately 632.69 billion yuan ($87.95 billion), according to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT).

Remarkably, these figures not only surpassed the levels seen in 2023 but also exceeded those recorded in 2019 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating a remarkable rebound in consumer confidence and economic vitality. Analysts attribute this resurgence to various factors, including robust policy support and improved sentiment among Chinese consumers.

Premier Li Qiang, addressing the State Council’s plenary meeting, emphasized the need for swift action and effective measures to sustain this momentum, aligning with the goals outlined during the Central Economic Work Conference. Li urged departments to address public and enterprise concerns, maintain policy stability, and bolster confidence through pragmatic actions, underscoring the government’s commitment to fostering high-quality development.

Behind these record-breaking figures lies a nation bustling with activity – crowded roads, airports, tourist destinations, and cinemas witnessed an influx of travelers and moviegoers, reflecting the vibrancy of the Chinese economy. Notably, Hainan Province experienced such high demand for flights that additional services had to be arranged to accommodate travelers.

Moreover, China’s economic vitality was not confined within its borders, as evidenced by a significant surge in outbound tourism. Chinese visitors made 3.6 million outbound trips during the holidays, while inbound trips reached 3.23 million, indicating a resurgence in international travel facilitated by visa policies and economic recovery.

Jiang Yiyi, deputy head of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University, attributed the rise in outbound tourism to China’s steady post-pandemic recovery and favorable economic conditions.

Despite global economic challenges, China’s stable recovery trajectory is expected to continue in 2024, supported by increasing policy measures and growing consumer and business confidence. Provincial-level governments are actively outlining strategies to bolster economic growth, with a focus on improving the business environment and attracting investments.

As China gears up for the upcoming national two sessions in March, where a national GDP growth target will be unveiled, localities across the country are setting ambitious growth targets, with economic powerhouses aiming for a growth rate of 5 percent or higher.

Consumption remains the primary driver of China’s economic growth, contributing over 82 percent to the total GDP growth in 2023, followed by investment and exports. With concerted efforts to sustain this momentum, China is poised to maintain its position as a key engine of global economic recovery in the years to come.


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