Labour Day Tourism Figures Are Cautiously Optimistic

3 minute read

By Hot Pot Strategy Team

Labour Day (May 1st) in China is typically a 3 day holiday, however this year, workers were given a 5 day break from work. The Labour Day holiday has traditionally been a big opportunity for domestic travel with China’s 5A scenic spots becoming famously crowded. 

Many are viewing the holiday as an indication of both the willingness for Chinese consumers to travel and a glimpse into the recovery to expect in domestic markets. Now that China has returned to relative normality, Labour Day proved a willingness to travel, albeit with some limitations.


The Forbidden City, Beijing, 1 May 2020

Compared to Tombsweeping Festival (April 4th), there were almost twice as many tourists travelling for Labour Day, equating to approximately 115 million people, generating an estimated RMB 47.56 billion in tourism revenue. These numbers were chiefly driven by the re-opening of major tourist attractions in Beijing and Shanghai that have been closed since late January. However, in order to maintain social distancing rules, attractions are allowing up to only 30% of their total capacity and visitors must wear face masks. Compared with 2019, visits to many 5A scenic spots also saw a decrease in visitors, with many seeing only 20% of last year’s numbers.

The top destinations this year were Nanjing, Shanghai and Beijing, with the capital seeing a total of 4.63 million tourists. While these figures are encouraging after months of lockdown, this is still 55% less than last year, giving some sense of the immense scale of China’s tourism industry.

The Bund, Shanghai, 1 May 2020

One destination that was off the travel list for travellers was Hong Kong. Labour Day 2019, saw 840,000 Mainland Chinese tourists visit Hong Kong. This year, during the Labour Day festival, there were less than 1000 tourists and no official tour groups. However, this is not surprising, as Hong Kong has imposed harsh travel restrictions for in-bound visitors since February, requiring them to self-quarantine for 14 days by law. This renders a short-term trip to Hong Kong all but impossible. 

Much of this year’s domestic travel was driven by 18-35 year olds, with 50% of tourists aged 26-35 and 21% aged 18-25. The traveler also left their research process a lot later than usual, with a 90% increase in online travel research taking place during the week of April 22nd.

Whilst the numbers were down for Labour Day 2020 compared with the same period a year ago, there is still a clear willingness and desire to travel. Plus, the scale of China means that whilst total numbers are down, they are still significant and meaningful for the target destinations. 

The next key travel period is around Golden Week in October. Whether or not Chinese tourists choose to travel outside of China will depend on the recovery in different countries, with those that have a high safety record and open borders during the summer months emerging as winners. After a period of zero inbound tourism, as countries re-emerge from lockdown there will be an ever increasing opportunity to capture pent-up travel demand from China’s affluent traveller population. 

In Conclusion…

While the tourism numbers are a fraction of what they were last year, it is nevertheless encouraging that 115 million people travelled and spent money outside of their home, even knowing that there would be extra restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

That said, the year-on-year reduction in tourists and economic spend is a stark reminder that a full recovery is going to be a slow and apprehensive journey. Additionally, as the pandemic has impacted every country, there will undoubtedly be knock-on effects from a global supply chain that affect both retailer supply and consumer demand in China.

Nevertheless, we are cautiously optimistic that these figures signify China’s willingness and excitement to return to ‘normalcy’ – however ‘normal’ might look in a world after Covid-19.

Get in touch with us to find out how savvy strategic planning, campaign management and in-market support can help you make the most of the enhanced China opportunity.