'Golden Week' losing its luster

Updated: 2013-10-06 07:04

By He Na and Tang Yue (China Daily)

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Critics say the holiday causes traffic chaos, large crowds and high levels of stress

Hou Xin, a native of Harbin city in Heilongjiang province, has been working at a public relations consultancy in Beijing for eight years. This year's National Day holiday, often known as "Golden Week", was the first time that both his and his wife's parents have visited them in the Chinese capital.

Hou and his wife Yang Rui, a kindergarten teacher, had planned to show their relatives around famous tourist sites. In preparation, they had devised a detailed list of departure times, a timetable for each visit and earmarked places to eat.

However, halfway through the seven-day holiday the family group had only visited the Summer Palace and the Palace Museum.

The four parents refused to visit any other sites, complaining that they were too tired after fighting through the crowds. Moreover, they said they had not seen any of the beauty spots because of the overcrowding.

Hou and Yang weren't the only ones to be disappointed with the holiday crowds and traffic. Countless tourists also felt the same way. Complaints about the holiday, which people jokingly referred to as a "paid painful journey", came from all quarters.

Now, experts have suggested extending the holiday or even reintroducing the weeklong Labor Day holiday in May to reduce the flow of tourists.

More harm than good?

Some even claimed the holiday does more harm than good to both the health of the tourists and the development of the economy, and advised the widespread introduction of paid vacations instead of the current system of long, nationwide holidays.

Tourist resorts came under severe pressure because of the sudden influx of visitors and measures to cap numbers were employed in some of the most popular places. The National Holiday Office received 55 complaints from irate tourists on Wednesday and Thursday.

Sources at the Tian'anmen Square Administrative Committee said the square has received more than 500,000 people during the past three days, while the Palace Museum had 154,100 visitors and the Summer Palace received 108,400 people on Thursday alone.

Although China's main tourist attractions have seen an unprecedented surge in visitor numbers, the economic contribution of Golden Week is lower than many people imagine, said experts.

Many people travel during the holiday, but that doesn't necessarily result in an increase in total tourist revenues across the entire year, according to Cai Jiming, director of Tsinghua University's Political Economy Research Center, speaking to China News Service.

In the 13 years before 1999, the year Golden Week was introduced, China's tourism revenue saw a compound annual growth rate of 28.75 percent on average. However, that has slowed to 17.91 percent in the last 13 years, according to a study conducted by a Tsinghua research group on holiday reform, headed by Cai.

"While Golden Week boosts tourism over a specific period of time, the negative impact it has on high-added-value sectors, such as the stock and futures markets and import and export trade, often goes unnoticed," said Cai.

The increase in tourist consumption depends on people's incomes rather than Golden Week, he said, because people often reduce their spending on clothes, food, housing and education fees in order to save money for travel expenses.

For many people, the Golden Week holiday is not a given. According to the holiday arrangements issued by the State Council annually, many people had to work eight days out of nine immediately before this year's holiday.

This year, to guarantee three-day holidays for Labor Day and the Dragon Boat Festival, plus a further week for Spring Festival, people had to work seven days in a row before each break. Many also worked eight consecutive days following the Jan 1 to 3 holiday to celebrate New Year.

The arrangement violates China's Labor Law, which stipulates that workers should have at least one day off per week.