Holiday spending surge is a sign that prosperous year lies ahead
With consumption during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday surging, the Chinese economy has displayed its unabated vitality while ushering in the Year of the Pig.
Better known as “the Spring Festival golden week” during which businesses vie to lure customers and expand their market share, the holiday has always been an important barometer of consumption for the entire year.
The combined sales of retail and catering enterprises in China rose 8.5 percent year on year to a new high of 1.01 trillion yuan (US$150 billion) from February 4 to Sunday, according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Commerce.
Lunar New Year’s Eve dinners, family reunion feasts and party dinners with relatives and friends dominated the festival.
But a lot more Chinese chose not to cook this year, resulting in an increase in Lunar New Year’s Eve take-out orders by various degrees in different cities.
In north China’s Tianjin, 36 major restaurants received 12,000 orders for Lunar New Year’s Eve dinners, up 5.3 percent year on year.
Beijing’s major restaurants saw their revenue up by more than 10 percent during the holiday compared with the same period of last year.
The number of orders for fully or half-cooked dinners sold online rose noticeably as more Chinese ordered ready to eat meals through e-commerce platforms or hired a chef to cook meals at home.
On one online ordering platform, the number of orders for Lunar New Year’s Eve dinners increased 107 percent, according to the ministry.
While making special purchases for the holiday, more Chinese favored imported food such as cranberries from North America, avocados from Myanmar, codfish from New Zealand, lobster from Boston and cherries from Chile.
A customer surnamed Zhang in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province, said half of the food stored in her freezer for the Spring Festival was imported products.
“There is a wide range of foreign food to choose from, and the prices are affordable,” she said, which allows her family to slow down and relax during the holiday and enjoy delicacies.
Apart from exotic foreign food, Chinese consumers also paid more attention to product quality during the festival shopping spree, with the sales of organic food, smart home appliances and new electronic devices seeing fast growth, the ministry said.
Electronics are top items
Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com said its sales from February 3 to last Friday rose 42.7 percent year on year, with smartphones, computers and home appliances being the top three items in terms of sales value.
Cooking utensils posted the most substantial growth at 399 percent year on year, with people tending to prefer higher-end products in this category, the company said.
Online shopping in lower-tier cities is booming thanks to an expanding e-commerce network.
Sales growth in fourth-tier and sixth-tier cities exceeded 60 percent.
South China’s Guangdong Province is the biggest consumer on JD.com, followed by Beijing, Jiangsu and Sichuan, according to the company.
The Spring Festival once again unleashed China’s annual travel rush, with an increasing number of people opting to celebrate the holiday by traveling to tourist attractions.
There was a 19 percent year-on-year growth in the number of Chinese tourists during the Spring Festival holiday, according to data from Fliggy, an online tourism service provider.
A total of 12.59 million air passenger trips were made from February 4 to Sunday, up 10.6 percent from last year’s holiday, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
Around 111,000 flights were dispatched during the period, up 6 percent year on year. The national travel rush peaked on Sunday with daily air trips reaching a historic high of 2.03 million, according to the CAAC.
From January 21 to Sunday, air travelers in China made 37.46 million trips, up 10.4 percent from the Spring Festival travel rush of last year.
During the 40-day travel rush from January 21 to March 1, air travelers are expected to make 73 million trips, up 12 percent year on year, the CAAC said.
Traveling by air has become increasingly popular in China thanks to expanding air networks and rising household incomes.
Railway trips in China reached 60.3 million during the holiday, data from the national railway operator showed yesterday.
On Sunday, some 12.6 million passenger trips were made by train, up 4.4 percent year on year, according to the China Railway Corp.
Many domestic popular tourist spots were favored by Chinese tourists. Sanya, Xiamen and Harbin were the top three places for Chinese tourists making longer domestic journeys, while Chimelong Tourist Resort, Shanghai Disneyland Resort, and Mount Huangshan were the hottest destinations, according to a report by Lvmama.com, an online provider of tourism services.
Domestic tourism revenues rose 8.2 percent year on year to 513.9 billion yuan during the holiday, according to data from the Chinese Tourism Academy.
Various folk activities, including flower fairs, temple fairs and dragon and lion dances, were held to celebrate the holiday and attract tourists.
The number of overseas trips taken by Chinese jumped by 28 percent year on year.
Many of them came from first and second-tier cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Nanjing.
Resort islands were highly popular, as the number of Chinese traveling to the destinations almost doubled.
Ctrip, a Shanghai-based online travel agency, said countries along the Belt and Road such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and Cambodia are among the most popular outbound destinations.
Meanwhile, the number of visitors to East European countries increased by nearly 40 percent year on year.
Xiao Yinyuan, head of Ctrip’s outbound travel business, predicted that there would be 30 million Chinese traveling to countries and regions along the Belt and Road in 2019.
Museums and movies
Going to museums has become a trendy thing to do during the holidays in China.
A popular getaway this year was the Palace Museum where a special exhibition was staged to provide an immersive royal experience.
Statistics from the commerce ministry showed the museum hosted nearly half a million visitors during the holiday.
Although watching Lunar New Year blockbusters has long been a tradition, Chinese audiences were particularly excited this year because of the debut of domestic sci-fi blockbuster “The Wandering Earth” on February 5.
The film has earned more than 2 billion yuan, becoming the winner of the Chinese box office during the holiday. Second place went to “Crazy Alien,” which had earned 1.4 billion yuan, followed by “Pegasus” that has taken in over 1 billion yuan.
The total Chinese box office during the holiday exceeded 5 billion yuan, according to the commerce ministry.