HUSTLING AND BUSTLING: Visitors crowd into Causeway Bay, Hong Kong's commercial and shopping district, on February 9. About 700,000 tourists visit Hong Kong during the Spring Festival holiday, from February 9 to 15 (CHEN XIAOWEI)
'The moment New Year's Eve arrived, we began packing up for our holiday," said Zhang Yun, a 34-year-old woman who works in a state-owned enterprise in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province.
The family flew to Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province on February 10, the first day of the Lunar New Year, where they spent the holiday savoring Cantonese cuisine, visiting a Lunar New Year fair and the theme park Windows of the World in Shenzhen.
The family is just a small drop in the torrent of Chinese tourists this Spring Festival season, from February 9 to 15. The China Tourism Academy (CTA) forecasts that China's tourism market—which is already booming—would continue to thrive during the festival, with 76.8 percent of survey respondents showing a strong willingness to take a trip, much higher than the 36.5 percent of the previous Spring Festival holiday.
"I'm tired of the traditional way of spending the holidays—playing Mahjong and visiting relatives," says Wang Yaqing, a fresh university graduate in Beijing. "Traveling abroad with friends sounds cool."
The number of domestic and outbound trips is expected to reach 211 million during this holiday, a 20-percent increase year on year, according to the CTA.
Leading indicators like tourism bookings suggest that traditional tourist hotspots, such as Sanya in south China's Hainan Island, remaining the most popular domestic destination.
Outbound travel first outstripped inbound travel this year, accounting for roughly 60 percent of all tours, according to Sun Changcai, President of Beijing Global Tour Travel Service Co. Ltd. "The growth rate for outbound tourists hit 10 percent during this Spring Festival. It is a delightful surge," said Sun.
Due to freezing temperatures in many parts of China, countries in Southeast Asia were hugely popular among many northern Chinese, who want to seek a temporary shelter from the cold weather.
Statistics from Kuxun.cn, a Chinese flight and hotel search engine, showed that by the end of January, outbound travelers had made up 70 percent of the total number of Chinese travelers during the Spring Festival, with Southeast Asia being the top holiday paradise.
Chiangmai of Thailand, where the Chinese blockbuster Lost in Thailand was filmed, is expected to witness a surge in tourists from China. Local tourism officials estimated that Thailand would receive more than 100,000 Chinese tourists during this holiday, bringing in $140 million to the tourism industry.
While traditional destinations, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand remained popular, new destinations, like Brunei and Cambodia, have begun to win favor.
A surge in overseas travel this year also pushed up the prices of airline tickets and foreign travel packages.