BY Geng Wenxin 2012-04-06 20:24:51
Most people in China had three days off for the Qingming Festival holidays, also known as the Tomb-sweeping Day.
But for many, it's not quite enough. Going away on holidays requires a slightly longer time and some have begun to call for the old seven-day May Day holidays to be brought back.
Seven-day holidays are called "golden weeks" in China. There were three each year from 1999 to 2007: the Spring Festival holidays, the May Day holidays and the National Day holidays. The government shortened the May Day golden week in 2008 and increased three shorter traditional holidays: the Qingming Festival in early April, the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and the Mid-Autumn Day on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
As people have become used to busy working lives, holidays have become more important than ever. And many are finding that shorter holidays, even though there are more of them, don't seem to be quite as satisfying.
Missing the golden days
Zhang Lili is a 27-year-old telecom sales manager in Beijing. She told the Global Times that she hadn't been away traveling for three years.
"I need to go back to my hometown during the Spring Festival holidays. And during the National Day holidays I just want to rest at home. I want to go somewhere during the Qingming holidays. But I find it difficult to arrange a three-day tour," said Zhang.
Zhang still thinks that the May Day golden week was the ideal holiday. "We could go to a place far away and totally different from where we live. Three-day holidays are not that different from weekends. But I also think the May Day holidays should be improved, as I don't like the horrible experience of huge crowds of people pouring into tourist sites," Zhang said.
"Short holidays give me more chance to go back to my hometown to see my parents and friends, as my hometown is just around 300 kilometers away from Beijing," said Qian Hui, another office worker in Beijing, "but for those whose hometowns are far away, I don't think they can go back home so frequently like me. I think longer holidays suit them better."
An online survey of 1,722 people by the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper in March this year found that the majority supported bringing back the May Day golden week. The biggest reason was three days are too short to arrange a tour.
One effect of shorter holidays is less spending on travel, and the impact will be more severe this year, given the slowdown in China's economy, high prices and a slow increase in people's salaries, said Zhou Wufang, an analyst with Beijing-based market research company Zhuoxin Consulting.
"Less tours will also have an impact on business for hotels, restaurants and the retail sector. Slower growth of GDP this year will also mean that spending on tourism and retail will be lower. The government is trying to find ways to boost domestic consumption. Bringing back the May Day golden week would be a good option," Zhou noted.
The Southern Metropolis Daily's survey found that many Chinese people would like to travel in spring and early summer. But if there is not enough time and money is tight, the demand for tourism will drop significantly, Zhou said.
"Restaurants, hotels and malls made a lot of preparations for the May Day golden week in the past. And consumption figures showed the power of the golden week holidays. However, in the current system of shorter holidays, consumers see less reason for travel or shopping," Zhou noted.
Official statistics for the May Day golden week in 2007 showed that domestic tourism resorts received 179 million visitors and had total revenue of 73.6 billion yuan ($11.68 billion), with each visitor spending 411 yuan on average during the period.
The new holiday system squeezed many people's travel schedule to the National Day holidays, making the number of tourists grow greatly in that period, Liao Weilun, manager of a Beijing branch of domestic travel agency China CYTS Holdings Co, told the Global Times.
Statistics showed that domestic tourism resorts accepted 146 million visitors during the National Day holidays in 2007. However, in 2008, the first year after the May Day holidays were canceled, visitors during the National Day holidays jumped to 178 million and the number even soared to 228 million in 2009.
"The National Day golden week is in October and the Spring Festival holiday is generally in January or February. The two golden weeks are quite close to each other. Most people won't travel that frequently. And there are no long holidays between March and September, which causes great difficulties for domestic long-distance and overseas tour companies," Liao said.
There has been a slight rise in short-distance tours from March to September after the cancelation of the May Day golden week, Liao noted.
"It's understandable that people will go to nearer places due to the shorter holidays. But the rise in orders is not significant. As the new holidays are generally related to traditional culture, many people will choose to spend the three-day holidays with families and friends, as it is the Chinese tradition to get together with families in these holidays," Liao said.
Zhou's opinion was echoed by psychologist Zhang Xichao, who is a professor at Beijing Normal University.
"Generally, people need to work on weekends in order to get three-day holidays, which is not good for their working efficiency or rest. Take the Qingming holidays for example. People had to work on the Saturday of March 31 and the Sunday of April 1 in order to rest on April 2, 3 and 4. In other words, people have to suffer a seven-day working week before enjoying a three-day holiday," Zhang said.
More three-day holidays mean more seven-day working weeks, which makes it more likely that people will become exhausted, Zhang noted.
"A three-day holiday can't ease the tiredness caused by a seven-day working week. Also, an intensely arranged three-day travel program will make people feel even more tired. In the long run, people's working efficiency and enthusiasm will be greatly affected," Zhang said.
One reason why the government canceled the May Day golden week was that there was too much pressure on public facilities and tourism resources caused by the huge amount of people traveling, Liu Yiyang, an analyst with domestic consulting company eShip Consulting, told the Global Times.
But in the four years since then, China's transportation facilities have developed a great deal, Liu noted. High speed trains can greatly ease the transportation pressure, and the pressure on accommodation and popular tourist sites can be controlled through better management.
"The golden week system was applied in China in 1999 in order to cope with the low domestic consumption after the financial crisis in Asia in 1998. I think it is the right time for us to bring the policy back," said Liu.