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Domestic travel poised for takeoff

People make their way through a road covered by melting ice in the Hukou waterfall scenic spot of Jixian county, Shanxi province, yesterday. The spot witnessed one of the biggest ice jam floods in a century. [Zhang Baohua/China Daily]

The country's domestic travel market looks set to thrive in the coming Spring Festival holiday season amid the global economic slowdown, latest figures from a survey and industry players have shown.

 

Close to half of the respondents in an online survey released on Saturday by market research company Nielsen said they would take up domestic tour packages during the weeklong vacation period, which starts next week.

 

"Demand for travel is not likely to extinguish amid the economic downturn," said Zhang Qingzhu from tour agency China Comfort Travel Ltd.

 

"But some holidaymakers may cut down their budgets and opt for domestic trips over overseas ones," she said.

 

Domestic tours are good options during Spring Festival for its relatively good value for money, she said.

 

Others in the industry said the cancellation of the weeklong May Day holiday has also contributed to the increasing demand for domestic tours during Spring Festival.

 

"Since last year, people can enjoy only two weeklong holidays - the Spring Festival and National Day holidays. There is a need to release the pent-up demand in the sector," said Zhang Lingjie, deputy manager of the domestic department with the China International Travel Service head office.

 

Among all the domestic travel destinations, Hainan province's Sanya, which boasts bright sunshine and beautiful coastlines, stands out as the most popular site, with more than one-fifth of respondents in the Nielson survey saying they would choose the southern city to spend Spring Festival.

 

Yunnan province's Lijiang, known for its historical sights, ranked as the second-most popular destination in the survey with 17 percent of online users in the survey citing it as their preferred choice. Olympic host city Beijing came in third with 16 percent of those polled favoring it.

 

Tour operators like China Comfort Travel's Zhang Qingzhu said falling tour prices are also expected to "stimulate" the increasing domestic tour demand.

 

Domestic tour prices have already dropped from those of previous years because of sluggish business in the transport and hotel industries, Zhang said.

 

Prices for 75 percent of domestic travel packages for this year's Spring Festival holiday season have fallen by up to 20 percent from those of previous years, the Beijing Daily has reported.

 

The recent decrease in fuel prices and group discounts offered by airlines make up most of the fall in domestic tour packages, said Tian Ling, executive manager of the domestic tour department of tour agency China CYTS Tours Holding Co Ltd.

 

"Price quotes for Sanya tours, among the most popular travel options during this Spring Festival period, is 5,000 yuan ($731) at the lowest, 1,000 yuan less than those in 2007," Tian said.

 

With the number of inbound tourist falling, some travel destinations are pushing ahead with promotions to attract domestic tourists to boost business, Tian said.

 

To that effect, Beijing will distribute 30,000 free tickets to attract tourists during the holiday and at least 100 scenic spots in the capital will offer a 20 percent to 40 percent discount on tickets, Zhang Huiguang, head of Beijing's tourism administration, said last week.

 

The authorities in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, also announced plans to distribute 400,000 sets of promotional travel vouchers, worth 40 million yuan, to neighboring provinces, the Shanghai Morning News reported on Friday.

 

(China Daily January 19, 2009)