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China Goes on Vacation

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on September 29, 2008

Today marks the start of another week-long Chinese holiday, this time to celebrate the country’s National Day. The Chinese government started these hyper-holidays during the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, when then-Premier Zhu Rongji figured giving people time off in big chunks rather than one day here, one day there would boost the economy by giving more Chinese the opportunity to travel. So, borrowing from the Japanese and their Golden Week in late April-early May, the Chinese upped the ante and started having three Golden Weeks - Chinese New Year in January/February, May Day in May, and National Day in late September/early October.

It’s an idea whose time has passed, though. As anybody who has tried traveling during one of these Golden Weeks, China’s train stations and tourist spots are jammed even more than usual during these holidays. So the government has started to phase them out, with the week-long May Day holiday getting shortened this year and instead Chinese getting some traditional holidays like Mid-Autumn festival. The government probably figures, rightly, that the tourism industry already has enough wind at its back. According to a recent report from Xinhua, the Chinese tourism industry grew 22.6% last year, generating $160 billion in revenue. By 2020, China will likely be the world’s top tourist destination and will be No. 4 in sending tourists overseas. With numbers like those, China can afford to phase out the Golden Weeks and adopt a more normal holiday schedule.

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