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China's hotels brace for May holiday bust as Covid lockdowns weigh them down

Tourists visit a family hotel in Luqu county of Gannan Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, north-west of China's Gansu Province. Picture: Xinhua/Chen Bin

Tourists visit a family hotel in Luqu county of Gannan Tibet Autonomous Prefecture, north-west of China's Gansu Province. Picture: Xinhua/Chen Bin

Published Apr 29, 2022

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By Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh

Beijing: For the Fengxi Inn guesthouse, China's annual May Day holiday is usually a sell-out period, with guests booking out its rooms weeks in advance due to its location nestled in the green lush hills of the country's south-west Guizhou region.

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But it is expecting much fewer visitors this year for the upcoming holiday, even after slashing room rates and blasting promotions on social media, as China fights its largest outbreak since the virus emerged in Wuhan in late 2019 with lockdowns and curbs on movement.

"We only have guests on May 1 and 2, after that we have few guests," said Fengxi Inn manager Chen, only gave her surname. "People won't travel because they need to take multiple Covid tests."

Hotels across the country are bracing for what is expected to be one of China's leanest holiday travel periods since early 2020.

The May holiday from April 30 to May 4 is traditionally one of China's busiest tourist seasons as spring moves into summer.

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Hotels from Beijing to Sanya have slashed prices by up to 50%, with room rates in many Chinese cities hitting a five-year low for the holiday period, according to travel search engine Qunar.com.

Research by Gavekal Dragonomics estimated that 57 of China's 100 biggest cities were under some form of Covid curbs as of last week, including the most populous city Shanghai. Many others have imposed restrictions, such as multiple Covid tests or quarantine on arrival for travellers.

Passenger volumes across air, road and rail is expected to fall by 62% year-on-year during the five days, an official from the Ministry of Transport said on Thursday.

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Travel company Trip.com Group said more than half of the bookings on its platform for the holiday were from travellers looking to stay close to home within their province.

Some cities are urging residents not to leave at all. Shenzhen has offered 500 million-yuan (about R1.2 billion) in electronic shopping vouchers to residents to spend in local shops and restaurants from May 1. Ningbo city on the east coast is doing something similar.

"With people shelving travel plans over this May long weekend, we are expecting tourism-related spending to shift to people buying more consumer goods online," said Jacob Cooke,the co-founder and CEO of WPIC Marketing + Technologies, an e-commerce consulting firm in Beijing.

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