10/09/2007, 00.00
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Some 370 million people on the move during ‘Golden Week’

Domestic travel is up as more people fly, drive or sail to their destinations. Spending on food is up, a sign that real income and the desire for leisure are also up. More than half a million mainlanders visit Hong Kong to shop and invest in stocks.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With China’s ‘Golden Week’ over, it is time to assess its impact. Despite higher inflation, spending and domestic travel are up. This indicates that Chinese have higher disposable incomes and like vacations and leisure time. But the problems this week-long break generates are leading many to reconsider its wisdom

More than 370 million Chinese traveled on road or waterways for the long national holiday that began on October 1. Some six million people moved by boat, up 11.8 per cent from a year ago.

Trains are dreaded by many because of long waiting hours and overcrowding, but often unavoidable. Shanghai, Beijing and Hangzhou topped the list as the most favoured destinations.

Air travel hit an all time high with more than 540,000 passengers on Sunday, September 30, at the start of the week, and 3.75 million during the week, for an increase of 25 per cent compared to last year.

In addition to Beijing, Shanghai and the Hainan Island in the south, many air travellers visited less important cities like Yinchuan in Ningxia region.

Fewer road deaths were reported; “only” 1,171 for the whole week, a drop of 43 per cent over the previous year.

China’s commerce ministry estimated that 350 billion yuan were spent on food and meals, up 16 per cent from 2006, when it had gone up by 14.5 per cent over 2005. The hike was only partly due to higher overall inflation (+6.5 per cent in August) and food prices (up beef, lamb, poultry, eggs and vegetables; stable, pork).

Immigration Department figures showed that some 500,470 mainlanders visited Hong Kong from September 29 to October 6, drawn by better prices following the yuan’s appreciation vis-à-vis the Honk Kong dollar.

Visitors filled the restaurants and luxury shops selling foreign goods.

The Hong Kong Travel Industry Council reported fewer problems than in the past when some low cost tourist guides took visitors to designated stores and would not leave until they spent a certain amount.

Many more mainlanders also visited local financial institutions to invest in Hong Kong’s stocks.

Three ‘Golden Weeks’ (or week-long national holidays) were introduced in 1999 in order to stimulate tourism and increase consumption. But they have been criticised for creating a lot of problems like huge movements of people, traffic jams and poor services.

Although there were fewer problems this year, many Chinese still want the weeks abolished and a return to traditional holidays.

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