State news agency Xinhua reported that 3.05 million tourists visited Harbin during the three-day holiday, generating 5.91 billion yuan (US$832 million) in tourism revenue. These surpassed pre-pandemic levels, according to Xinhua.
For the Chinese New Year holidays, Harbin is the most popular tourist destination, according to a report by online travel platform Tongcheng Travel.
Social media has been a key driver in the winter tourism boom, according to Chinese media, with short videos of Harbin winter’s scenery and the local hospitality going viral.
Mr Oliver Sedlinger, CEO of tourism consultancy company Sedlinger & Associates, told CNA one trend that is currently “very visible” is a growing number of winter sport fans who use this holiday period as a chance to go on ski trips at ski resorts in China.
Founder and CEO of marketing firm China Trading Desk Subramania Bhatt agreed. Winter activities such as skating and skiing, as well as various ice and snow sightseeing projects have attracted more attention from tourists.
Chinese officials have also acknowledged the boom in winter tourism. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr Wang Wenbin said it shows China’s growing tourism market demand and people’s spending power.
“China’s consumption spree during holidays, festivals as well as the current winter travel boom have strongly boosted the global tourism market, and showed the country’s great economic vitality,” Mr Wang was reported saying by local media.
SETTING SIGHTS ABROAD
Booking platforms are also seeing a surge in international searches from Chinese travellers for the upcoming holidays.
Travel platform Booking.com said it has seen a four and a half times increase for international searches compared to the previous years, with France, Japan and Thailand among the top destinations searched by Mainland Chinese travellers.
Meanwhile, Trip.com has seen outbound bookings for Chinese travellers jump by 10 times year-on-year, with Japan, Thailand and Singapore among the top destinations.
As the momentum in domestic travel continues, Ms Ru anticipates that recent strategic initiatives will contribute to a faster pace in the recovery of international travel.
These include broadening the range of unilateral visa-free countries, reinstating visa-free entry policies for select places, streamlining visa and customs clearance process, as well as increasing more international flights.
Ahead of the holidays, China relaxed visa rules to encourage more tourists and business travellers to visit the country, including the easing of transit rules and extensions of stay for foreign nationals.
China has also been expanding its visa-free policy. Among the latest moves – mutual 30-day visa-free entries with Singapore and Thailand, which come into effect in February and March respectively.
Acknowledging that improving visa policies is an important step, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that it would continue to “upgrade measures” facilitating cross-border travel.
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