Graphics: Travel and consumption bounces back in China

China witnessed strong rebounds in travel and consumption in the first month of 2023, following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

For one thing, tourism and tourist spending bounced back significantly during the week-long Chinese New Year holiday.

Domestic trips during the holiday from January 21 to 27 hit 308 million, up 23 percent from the same period last year, equivalent to 89 percent of the 2019 figure, before the pandemic began, according to data from the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Tourism revenue nationwide rose by 30 percent compared with last year, reaching 375.8 billion yuan ($55.5 billion), and 73 percent of what was seen in 2019.

Graphics: Travel and consumption bounces back in China

"The strong rebound was mostly driven by the release of pent-up demand in in-person services, including tourism, hospitality and entertainment, which were hit hardest by the pandemic over the past three years," Nomura analysts said. "People flocked to scenic spots, watched firework shows and crowded into restaurants and hotels."

According to a report from Ctrip, one of China's largest online travel agencies, travel over the 2023 Chinese New Year period reached a three-year high. Overall travel bookings on the platform, including domestic and international bookings, increased four-fold from the same period in 2022.

During the seven-day holiday, China saw nearly 2.9 million cross-border trips, up 120.5 percent year on year.

China's average daily passenger flight volumes in January increased to 10,882, of which 10,618 were domestic ones, about 90.7 percent of 2019 levels, according to data from VariFlight.

Graphics: Travel and consumption bounces back in China

The sales of key retail and catering enterprises across the country increased by 6.8 percent during the Chinese New Year holiday, compared with the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Encouraging figures are the result of coordinated central and local planning. The Central Economic Work Conference held in Beijing in December highlighted the major work for this year, and the first was to boost domestic demand by prioritizing recovery and expansion of consumption. Meanwhile, China's local governments held featured activities and adopted measures to rev up economic development and consolidate market confidence

With eased epidemic controls and the start of a new policy cycle, China's economy is expected to open new horizons in 2023, while pragmatic policies to stabilize growth and boost development will further shore up confidence, said Yu Xiangrong, China chief economist of Citigroup.

The International Monetary Fund has lifted its forecast for China's economic growth this year to 5.2 percent from a previous prediction of 4.4 percent. The forecasts of the UN and World Bank stood at 4.8 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

Zhang Ming, deputy director of the Institute of Finance under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that as the effects of various policies continue to emerge, China's economy will pick up steam and again become an important "locomotive" driving global economic growth.

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