Chinese travelers swap dine-in experiences, room service for takeouts during Golden Week
Chinese people love their takeout food… even when holidaying.
During the National Day holiday, vacationers wandered the length and breadth of the country – and beyond – in search of new sights and scenery. But when hunger struck, they opted to put their feet up and let their fingers do the walking.
From snacks to soups and everything in between, more holidaymakers had their meals delivered to the doorstep of their hotel and the entrance to scenic spots last week, according to Ele.me, a Chinese food delivery service.
Between October 1 and 3, the first three days of the week-long holiday, over one million sightseers got their takeaways delivered to popular attractions nationwide. Tourist magnets like Chengdu in the southwestern province of Sichuan, which giant pandas call home, and the eastern coastal city of Qingdao, known for its brewing tradition, dominated takeout orders to hotels. In Lanzhou, a city as old as the ancient Silk Road in the country's northwest, orders on Ele.me destined for hotels soared by 86.7 percent year on year.
The nascent trend is an extension of China's love affair with food delivery apps, which have become a staple in urbanites' diets.
Convenience in a container
With extended hours behind their desks, few Chinese can find the strength – and time – to fix themselves something to eat after a long day at work. Mercifully, there's an app for that.
Platforms like Ele.me and Meituan place the offerings of virtually every eatery in town at their fingertips and make their mouths water with coupons and special discounts. The country's appetite for meals on wheels is feeding the growth of the online food ordering and delivery market, swelling to 441.5 billion yuan (61.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018, up 112.5 percent from the year before, according to big data analysis provider Analysys.
Day and night, rain or shine, an army of some three million meal couriers whizz their way through the streets of Chinese cities, racing against time to reach starving consumers at home, in office and even on bullet trains. They've been celebrated as the "Guardians of the Stomach" by internet users, made a cameo at the National Day parade in Beijing last week and got holidaymakers covered when the hunger pangs kicked in.
Thumbing through an app for restaurant recommendations might seem at first antithetical to the romanticized idea of ambling around unknown neighborhoods sniffing out hidden gems. But with just seven days to de-stress and an estimated 800 million people on the move, it becomes clear why more and more Chinese prefer to spend less time worrying about where to eat and how to get there, and focus more on sightseeing and snapping pictures.
Takeout helps travelers avoid headache-inducing situations: Standing in line for eternity outside restaurants, jostling for seats once inside, shelling out big money for hotel room service, and settling for ghastly yet costly snacks on offer at scenic spots. It's convenience and affordability packed in a plastic container, and transported to wherever vacationers are.
Culinary journey al fresco
Despite shunning dine-in experiences, tourists didn't miss out on sampling local flavors. Ele.me data shows that the most ordered dishes for delivery to scenic spots were, in fact, local specialties.
More than 11,780 orders of fried dumplings were delivered to Xujiahui, a busy district in Shanghai, in the first three days of the holiday. Meanwhile, over 5,500 orders of hot noodles were destined for Hubu Alley, a food street in central China's Wuhan, while in Xi'an, home of the Terracotta Army, 5,470 orders of roujiamo, often dubbed the "Chinese hamburger," were placed for delivery at the Greater Wild Goose Pagoda. In Beijing, around 3,500 people asked their Peking roast ducks be delivered to the 798 Art District.
It's not just hot meals that were being delivered to hotels. Guests were also cooking up a storm in their rooms as evidenced by skyrocketing orders of raw ingredients through Ele.me.
Deliveries of fresh produce to lodgings in Chongqing Municipality, famed for its spicy fare, soared by a whopping 567 percent in the first three days of holiday, while in Guangzhou similar orders climbed by 123 percent.
Reports suggest travelers chose to prepare their meals from scratch to cut down on their expenses and ensure their holiday spread suits their taste – tongue-numbing hotpot and dried oysters might not be everyone's favorites after all.