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China New Year travel slumps amid coronavirus curbs

The number of people who travelled in China ahead of Lunar New Year plummeted from two years ago as coronavirus restrictions curbed the world’s largest annual domestic migration. The seven-day celebration, which kicked off on Thursday, is China’s most important national holiday and is usually marked by big family reunions. Millions of workers traditionally travel – sometimes thousands of kilometres from Beijing and other major cities – to their hometowns in remote regions.

Data from the Ministry of Transportation, Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc and travel analytics firm ForwardKeys showed a sharp drop in the percentage of the country’s 1.45 billion population who travelled this year. With some 48 million more people expected to stay put in 36 major cities this year compared to years past, according to the commerce ministry, utility companies and movie theatres are preparing for heightened demand.

Ministry of Transportation data showed a 70% drop in the number of passenger trips across the country in the two weeks leading up to Lunar New Year, compared with the same period two years ago. Travel during last year’s holiday period, during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, was also disrupted. A travel index published by Baidu Inc based on GPS data from its users showed a 41% fall in travellers compared with 2019. Flight bookings for the two weeks prior to the holiday stood at 32.8% of the equivalent period in 2019, while tickets issued during the holiday period were just 14.7% of the 2019 level, according to travel analytics firm ForwardKeys.

China’s government in January urged people to abandon travel plans following fresh COVID-19 outbreaks, leading local governments to impose strict quarantine measures. Some areas relaxed their stance in recent days, triggering some last minute bookings, particularly for Sanya, a popular holiday destination in the South China Sea.

China New Year travel slumps amid coronavirus curbs, Reuters, Feb 12

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