Cooped-Up Beijing Residents Rush to Get Out of Town
Beijing residents can’t wait to get out of their homes during the Labor Day holiday starting May 1 after the Chinese capital reduced the public health emergency response level with the Covid-19 outbreak coming under control.
The government of Beijing will lower the city’s public health emergency response from level one to level two starting Thursday. Arrivals from parts of the country classified as low risk will no longer need to undergo 14 days of home isolation after the downgrade, according to a municipal government briefing Wednesday.
Within a half hour after the announcement, flight and hotel searching of online travel sites surged. Bookings of tickets on flights departing from Beijing surged by more than 15-fold, according online travel agency Qunar.com. Sales of plane tickets departing and arriving Beijing increased five-fold, and train ticket sales four-fold, according to Alibaba Group’s travel booking platform Fliggy.
The five-day Labor Day holiday is seen as the first sign of recovery in the tourism industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus. Multiple online travel platforms reported overwhelming bookings of Labor Day tours. Online travel booking agency Ctrip estimated that the number of visitor trips during the Labor Day holiday will at least double the subdued number for the Qingming or Tomb-Sweeping Festival in early April.
Hotel and tourism site booking also jumped in Beijing. Users snapped up vouchers for hotels at popular tourism destinations, such as Qinhuangdao, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Sanya. Sales of hotel vouchers at Ctrip increased 650%.
People choosing to stay in Beijing are flooding local tourism sites. Wednesday afternoon, visits to Beijing regional tourism sites nearly tripled from last week, data from Meituan Tickets showed.
Most people are expected to stick close to home as the lifting of quarantine rules in Beijing does not apply to overseas arrivals and people traveling from central Hubei province and other high-risk places.
The tourism industry generally doesn’t expect a nationwide recovery until the epidemic completely ends. International travel remains out of the question, due to travel restrictions imposed by other countries and a lack of flights.
The tourism industry is calling for a “cautious and orderly” reopening. Tourism sites are required to open only outdoor sections and keep facilities closed, according to a notice issued April 13 by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the National Health Commission. Major tourism sites and some restaurants were also told to limit occupancy to as little as 30% of capacity.
The tourism ministry warned people to maintain vigilance and take protective measures while traveling.
Contact reporter Denise Jia (firstname.lastname@example.org) and editor Bob Simison (email@example.com)
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