Lunar New Year is traditionally a time for Chinese people to reunite with distant relatives after long journeys to ancestral hometowns, but this year more than 6m are expected to go abroad. This year’s Spring Festival fels on Saturday, when the year of the monkey gave way to that of the rooster. It is one of only two lengthy annual holidays enjoyed by most Chinese people.
“For us, the festival is mainly a vacation period,” said a Beijing woman surnamed Qi, who will be in Okinawa, Japan, for the festival, leaving her parents at home. The number of travelers venturing outside the mainland for the festival is expected to break last year’s record of more than 5.7 million, officials say. Travelers are expected to spend more than US$14 billion on visits to 174 destinations this season, leaving the country for an average of nine days. Thailand, South Korea and Japan are the most popular destinations.
By custom, the festival involves a return home for a family meal before midnight, followed by days of visits to relatives’ houses. However, observance of these customs is becoming less strict. “There are only three people in my immediate family,” said Ms Qi, 35. “We are not that close to other relatives, so there’s no need to get together with them.”
Air pollution has become a crucial factor driving international travel, the state-run China Tourism Academy said this week.