Holiday Economy | Small County City Tour Growth Rate “Wins” Big Cities, Chinese Tourists Spread Across Nearly 200 Countries Around the World

According to data from major tourism companies, during the May Day holiday, the domestic tourism market maintained a stable and increasing trend on the basis of a high level in the same period last year.

The May Day holiday is coming to an end, and although some regions have had consecutive rainy days during this holiday, many “Little Sun” cities across the country are experiencing a sea of people.

According to data from major tourism companies, during the May Day holiday, the domestic tourism market maintained a stable and increasing trend compared to the same period last year. At the same time, internal structural changes began to emerge: the growth rate of inbound and outbound tourism was higher than that of domestic tourism, and the growth rate of lower tier markets such as small county towns was higher than that of first and second tier markets.


The growth rate of the sinking market surpasses that of first and second tier cities

During the holiday, in many popular tourist destinations, the First Financial reporter saw the scene of “people following the crowd” on the spot. For example, in the Nanjing Road Walkway and the Bund in Shanghai, a large number of tourists emerged at popular card punching spots such as the Huangpu River and the Peace Hotel. It was reported that the number of tourists in the Bund area during the holiday was hundreds of thousands, and tourists had to queue up to go to the toilet. In some major scenic spots in Hangzhou, there are also crowds of people. On May 2nd, when the reporter wanted to purchase tickets for a one-day tour of the Beijing Hangzhou Grand Canal, the staff informed him that the tickets had already been sold out.

According to Shanghai’s tourism big data monitoring, during the May Day holiday, Shanghai received a total of 16.2394 million tourists, a year-on-year increase of 3.77%; The main tourist attractions (points) in this city have received a total of 7.32 million tourists, a year-on-year increase of 15%; The Bund, Yu Garden and Xiaolujiazui open scenic spots received 5.4672 million tourists, up 0.29% year on year; The five districts along the Huangpu River have received a total of 7.1587 million tourists; The five districts along the Suzhou River have received a total of 3.948 million tourists; The six historical and scenic protection areas have received a total of 2.8631 million tourists.

According to data from Tuniu, during the May Day holiday, users in first tier and new first tier cities have a higher enthusiasm for traveling, with a travel volume accounting for 69%. During the May Day holiday, there was a significant phenomenon of users traveling off peak hours, with nearly 25% of Tuniu users choosing to depart before May 1st. Among them, April 27th and April 30th were popular choices for early travel users. Domestic long-distance tourism leads the consumption of May Day holiday tourism, with a travel volume accounting for 43%. Among the popular destinations in China, Shanghai, Beijing, Sanya, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Xiamen, Guilin, Chongqing and other destinations are the more popular choices for Tuniu users.


It is worth noting that in addition to traditional popular destinations, county tourism has also evolved into a new tourism trend, injecting new vitality into the tourism market. Tuniu stated that during this year’s May Day holiday, the tourism heat in counties such as Anji, Yixing, Wuyuan, Chun’an, Liyang, Deqing, Ningguo, Shengzhou, Jiashan, Pingtan, and Wenling saw a significant increase. More and more young tourists are turning their attention to county towns.

The travel data of the same trip shows that the consumption of hotels and transportation in county-level cities such as Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area, Dongyang, Kunshan and Lushan has increased significantly compared with the same period last year. The ticket booking volume of the main scenic spots in these cities has basically achieved a growth of over 100%, and the booking volume of some popular scenic spots has increased by over 200% year-on-year.


Ctrip stated that the trend of tourism sinking is more obvious, reflected in the year-on-year growth rate of tourism orders. First and second tier cities are smaller than third and fourth tier cities, and third and fourth tier cities are smaller than county-level markets. Yangzhou, Luoyang, Qinhuangdao, Weihai, Guilin, Kaifeng, Zibo, Mount Huangshan, Tai’an and Shangrao are popular third and fourth tier destinations, with an average increase of 11% in tourist orders. Anji, Tonglu, Dujiangyan Irrigation Project, Yangshuo, Mile, Yiwu, Wuyuan, Jinghong, Kunshan and Pingtan are popular county tourism destinations, with an average increase of 36% in tourism orders.

On the Tujia platform, the top 10 popular county destinations for the May Day holiday are Pingtan County in Fujian, Huairou District in Beijing, Anji County in Huzhou, Shengsi County in Zhoushan, Deqing County, Leishan County in Qiandongnan, Fenghuang County in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, Dongshan County in Zhangzhou, Xiapu County in Ningde City, and Nan’ao County in Shantou.

According to Wang Yalei, an industry analyst at Ctrip Research Institute, the base of the sinking market is lower and there is greater growth potential. At the same time, tourists are pursuing a more relaxed and cost-effective approach, accelerating the downward trend. Compared to the overcrowding of first – and second tier cities, the sinking market provides the possibility for tourists to relax and spend their holidays. Moreover, compared to the high cost of accommodation and catering during holidays in first and second tier cities, the lower tier market is also more cost-effective. According to Ctrip data, during the May Day holiday, the average night price of hotel rooms in county-level markets was only half of that in popular first and second tier cities.

Behind the decline of the tourism market is the increasing diversity of tourist sources and destinations in China, as well as the structural changes in the supply and demand sides of the tourism market. From the demand side, consumers have a more obvious mentality of avoiding conformity, and moving from first and second tier central cities to third and fourth tier and even county towns will become more common in the future. From the supply side perspective, the improvement of high-speed rail transportation infrastructure has improved the direct accessibility between the third and fourth lines, county markets, and central cities. According to incomplete statistics, since December 2023, a total of 127 4A level scenic spots have been added in 10 provincial-level administrative regions, of which 65% are distributed in county towns and county-level cities.

Of course, the recent rainy weather across the country, especially in the southern regions, has to some extent affected the travel plans of some passengers. Qiu Ya, the manager of the East Gate Hotel in Zhaoqing Seven Star Rock Scenic Area in Hanting, told China Business News that the local rainstorm before the festival had significantly reduced the orders of the hotel during the holiday. Full refunds would be given to tourists who had unsubscribed, and tourists who still stayed during the holiday would be informed in advance of the situation, and security measures would be taken for garage, meals and other aspects.


Performance drives the tourism market

Cultural and entertainment activities such as concerts, music festivals, and art exhibitions have also played an important role in stimulating cultural and tourism consumption, becoming the “traffic code” to promote the development of the tourism economy. This year’s “May Day”, the concerts of famous singers such as Phoenix Legend, Zhang Jie, Jacky Xue, Pan Weibo, Soda Green, and other activities such as Strawberry Music Festival, Midou Music Festival, the Taihu Lake Bay Music Festival have been staged in Beijing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Taiyuan, Changzhou and other cities, attracting a large number of young tourists, and the consumption of transportation, accommodation, catering, tourism and other related destinations has increased significantly.

During the holiday period, the “Splendid Versailles” exhibition and the Royal Opera House Versailles 60th anniversary celebration concert of diplomatic relations between China and France opened at the OMNI Music Festival Square in Hangzhou Yinglan Center. This exhibition and concert, using 360 degree panoramic imaging, augmented reality, virtual reality and other technological means, brought various immersive and multisensory interactive experiences to the audience, and increased the number of local holiday tourists.

Ma Fengwo stated that the starry Tianjin “Bubble Island Music Festival” has helped Tianjin’s popularity soar by 266%, and the “roadside concert” in Guiyang has turned the joy of music fans into a nationwide carnival that everyone can participate in, with its strength putting Guiyang in the top ten popular destinations.

According to data from Ctrip, during the May Day holiday, search popularity for related events such as concerts and music festivals increased by 23% year-on-year. Music festivals in Changzhou, Hefei, Beijing, Yantai, and other places received high attention, driving growth in local hotel accommodation, transportation, and catering.

The concert also boosted accommodation, and Xiaozhu Homestay stated that Qingdao and Yantai have become the most popular seaside cities for Xiaozhu Homestay due to the dual combination of “seaside+concert”, further attracting tourists. The landlord of a homestay near the Yantai Yangma Island Music Camp said, “The homestays during this year’s May Day holiday have been fully booked. Many people immediately book their rooms after successfully grabbing tickets for concerts, and some even book their rooms first before grabbing tickets. Many tourists even ask me for the best time and location to catch the sea.”


The growth rate of inbound and outbound tourism is higher than that of domestic tourism

With the implementation of facilitation measures for entry and exit, the connection between Chinese tourism and the world has become closer. According to Ctrip data, during the May Day holiday, the growth rate of inbound and outbound tourism orders was higher than that of domestic tourism. In terms of outbound tourism, during the May Day holiday, Chinese tourists will travel to nearly 200 countries and over 3000 towns worldwide. During the May Day holiday, inbound tourism orders increased by 105% year-on-year, and the visa free policy had a significant effect. The cumulative number of inbound tourists from 12 countries in China, as well as Singapore and Thailand, who mutually waive visas, increased by about 2.5 times year-on-year.

According to data from Qunar, Chinese tourists have traveled to 1035 cities around the world, with a concentration of Chinese tourists, driving consumption recovery around the world. Chinese festivals have once again become the peak season for global tourism consumption. During this year’s May Day holiday, international airfare and hotel bookings both reached historic highs during the same period.

According to Feizhu data, outbound tourism continued to grow at a nearly doubling rate during this year’s May Day holiday. Among them, the booking volume of outbound hotels has increased by about twice compared to last year; Car rental and self driving tours have become popular overseas, with booking amounts increasing more than three times compared to last year; International cruise supply is rapidly recovering, with bookings skyrocketing by over 15 times compared to last year. According to the data provided by Fliggy, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the United States, Indonesia and other popular destinations for outbound tourism during this year’s May Day holiday. Long distance destinations such as Austria, Türkiye, Morocco, Russia, Portugal, Georgia, Egypt, Spain, Kazakhstan, Brazil and so on grew fastest, with the average increase of bookings up to four times compared with last year.