Another week-long holiday is just around the corner in China. And while the May Day “golden week” holiday and the current holiday schedule are not going to be cancelled anytime in the near future, plans to improve the system are under consideration.
Zhang Xiqing, Deputy Chief of the China National Tourism Administration says that the current “golden week” holiday system has a definite positive effect on the tourism market.
“Golden week holidays have stimulated public consumption and boosted the tourism market. It guarantees people the right to take a rest. “
The three so-called “golden weeks” were introduced in 2000; they include the Spring Festival holiday, the May Labor Day holiday and the October national day holiday. Over the past 19 golden weeks, a total of more than 1.6 billion people took to the road creating income of around 670 billion Yuan.
However the ‘golden week’ holidays have, in recent years, come in for some criticism including the claim that they put too much pressure on the environment, tourist services and public security in short concentrated periods.
Zhang Xiqing says government departments are considering various proposals to improve the current holiday system.
“In order to ease the pressure of the concentrated travel, we may introduce more golden weeks, break down the week-long vacation into parts, or introduce flexible paid holidays a year. These measures are all under consideration.”
The May Day holiday this year begins on Monday the 30th of April and runs until Sunday May the 6th.
Should Golden Week be Cancelled or Changed?
This May Holiday is the 20th Golden Week of China and ‘terrible’ scenes can be seen everywhere.
May 1, hundred thousands of people swarming in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. At that day, over 50 kids were lost and many adults also couldn’t find their companions.
The original idea of Golden Week must be boost the economy of China. More people have holidays to travel around and shopping, more money are earned.
Nanjing Lu, Shanghai
So many people came out and traveling in and around the cities, mountains, beaches, historical sites, and even deserts. Traffic problems and accommodation problems were soon coming.
What should we do? Cancel the Golden Week or change it to let everyone enjoy, but not afflict, the holiday?
“Golden Week” Holiday may be canceled
Updated: 2004-11-26 15:35
State Council departments are considering canceling the weeklong holidays around International Labor Day, National Day and the Chinese Spring Festival and returning to a system where people have more choice over when to take their own holidays.
China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) sources disclosed that they have discussed the issue with various bodies, including the Ministry of Railways, the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the National Development and Reform Commission.
In September 1999 the State Council decided to introduce the three so-called “golden weeks” to help stimulate domestic consumption and lessen the impact of the Asian financial crisis by spurring development of the tourism industry.
Zhao Peng, president of the Beijing Union University’s Tourism College, said that Hong Kong and Macao would be affected if the holidays were changed, but this would not last long since the same overall amount of income from tourism would simply be spread throughout the year.
“The ‘golden week’ holidays go against general patterns of tourist management,” said Zhao, “They put much pressure on the environment, tourist services and public security. Moreover, retails sales during them are falling because people are shopping at more convenient times.”
The 10th Five-Year Plan — China’s 2001-2005 economic and social development blueprint — already suggested introducing 26-36 flexible paid holidays a year instead of the fixed week-long vacations.
A survey by Horizon Research of 3,502 people aged 18-65 in 10 cities found that 44 percent wanted more flexible vacations. Most over 20 years of age favored “free and flexible holiday vacations,” while those over 40 particularly stressed the importance of it being paid leave.
Zhou Tongqian, vice president of the Tourism Administration College at the Beijing International Studies University, took a skeptical attitude toward complete change, saying that a wholly flexible model would have its own drawbacks and that a compromise should be reached.
Li Mingde, senior researcher at the Tourism Research Center, affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Science, said that the “golden weeks” bring too much disorder and stress to people’s lives, despite the fact that they appearto have helped the economy when first introduced. “They will sooner or later be replaced by flexible holiday vacations.”
Golden Week Holidays to Remain: Tourism Officials
Sources from the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) said the Golden Week holiday system would remain unchanged despite several problems during the system’s 7-year-long operation.
The decision came in a meeting of the tourism group during the 2005 National Holiday Golden Week on Oct 8.
Based on recent developments, officials still believe there are more benefits than harm from the Golden Week holidays, said Zhang Xiqin, CNTA deputy director.
The office responsible for holiday’s affairs claims that just 171 complaints were dealt with during the 2005 National Holiday Golden Week, 59 percent down year on year.
Yet due to emerging problems during the 7 years of the operation, people have been throwing doubts about the relevance of the Golden Week system, with some saying it ought to be cancelled because of problems in transportation and overloaded tourist attractions.
People jostle each other in a crowd in a park on 2005 National Holiday Golden Week.
They argue that a system of annual leave with pay should be widely adopted in order to allow people to take holidays any time throughout the year.
Yet officials say that as many as 64 percent of respondents still say that golden week holidays provide more benefits than harm to their lives, adding that the events are an indispensable part of their lives because family members can get together for fun after lengthy work and study periods.
Experts point out that it will be unnatural for Chinese people to go without public holidays like golden week holidays because it is cited as a tradition. Moreover, the annual leave with pay system is not well established enough to take place of Golden Week holidays.
Yet a chinadaily.com.cn poll found that more than 75 percent of readers say the system should be scrapped, and just 16 percent want it to stay. That indicates the authorities polling may be outdated.
CNTA officials say they are aware of the problems, noting that as many as 110 million people were entertained in tourism sites all over the country during this year’s National Holiday Golden Week, an annual increase of 10.5 percent.
To tackle the crowding, they are calling for more improvement of public facilities and encouraging people to be rational about holiday behavior.
One Beijing man said he was very pleased with his National Holiday, choosing to drive his family around Beijing’s suburb instead of traveling out of Beijing as he did before. “There were fewer people than expected and the service was good. We all had a great time,” he said, smiling.
Golden holiday brings profits, concerns
The May Day “golden week” holiday has once again generated heated debate over the balance between economic gain from tourism and protection of heritage sites and travellers.
Authorities estimated that a record 120 million trips were made in the past holiday and travellers spent 40 billion yuan (US$5 billion) during the seven days.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, 44 people were killed across the country in seven major road accidents during the week-long holiday.
Independent tourists who drove their own cars have been blamed for the numerous minor mishaps on the roads because of their poor driving skills.
Some media called for a reconsideration of the golden week holiday system, which started in 1999 in a bid to stimulate spending, and criticized local authorities for overlooking tourists’ needs and safety.
Each day of the holiday between 50,000 and 60,000 people visited the Grand Courtyard of the Qiao Family in Pingyao in North China’s Shanxi Province, where Zhang Yimou shot his classic film “Raise the Red Lantern” roughly 10 times the usual number.
To meet the demands of the unexpected flurry of tourists, the site printed an extra 500,000 tickets on top of the 300,000 initially printed for the year.
“We didn’t expect so many people to come,” said Wang Zhengqian, director of the local folklore museum.
“We were a little worried when the tourists came,” he said. “More than 200 soldiers were dispatched to maintain order.”
The province received more than 10 million travellers during the week, bringing revenues of about 3.6 billion yuan (US$450 million), up 30 per cent over the same period last year.
The large number of people on the road meant problems in accommodation and transportation.
Zhou Yinghong, an inspector at a factory in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, found it almost impossible to buy train tickets for a business trip that coincided with the holiday.
“They told me it had sold out seven days ahead,” she said. “And I had to beg a relative who had contacts at the rail department to get some tickets.”
Concerns were also raised about the protection of some historical sites overrun by mass of sightseers. In Beijing, the Imperial Palace Musuem received double the recommended number of tourists on May 2.
Ma Huidi, a professor at the Institute of Chinese Culture, said: “I cannot imagine how this ancient architecture and historical heritage can withstand so many travellers.”
However Liu Deqian, a tourism expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, dismissed the criticism.
“The popularity of travelling reflects people’s needs and the holiday should not be cancelled, though tourists and tourism operators should take pre-emptive safety measures in case of danger,” he said.”It’s people’s own choice to travel.”
“Golden Week”: Seventh year itch?
BEIJING, April 24 (Xinhuanet) — With China’s seven-day Labour Day and the National Day holidays now entering their seventh year, the possibility of cancelling the holidays, usually called “Golden Week” has become a widely discussed topic.
“Golden Week” seems to have been steadily losing its glitter, year by year, since the government first established it in time for National Day 1999. This isn’t to say the week has lost its popularity. On the first golden week, in October 1999, 40 million people went travelling around the country. By 2004 the number had increased 2.5 times to 101 million, according to statistics from the National Holidays Co-ordinating Office.
“Golden Week has been very effective in introducing the idea of vacation travel to Chinese, from the very beginning,” said Xia Lingen, professor of the Tourism Management Department of Fudan University. Yet Xia also pointed out the number of travellers was smaller than the official figure, because some people were counted more than once.
After seven years of Golden Weeks, the number of Chinese travellers has increased to a point that little room for further growth remains. “The development of tourism is tightly related to the economy of the country. Only relatively affluent citizens consider vacation travelling,” he said.
In fact, the average annual expenditure on tourism per capita in cities decreased from 450 yuan (US$54.22) in 2002 to 430 yuan (US$51.80) last year, while the figure for rural citizens was 220 yuan (US$26.50). “The figure is still quite low,” Xia pointed out.
Due to the growth trend in domestic tourism, scenic spots and transportation systems are placed under growing pressure from Golden Week.
“It’s not a big problem for Shanghai Railway Station but it’s definitely challenging for smaller stations to receive four or five times the usual number of passengers during the week-long holidays, far more than any other time in the year excepting only Chinese Lunar New Year,” said Yuan Jiaji, an official of the Shanghai Railway Administration.
The railway authorities have to add temporary trains during Golden Weeks for the wave of travellers heading out to the major scenic spots throughout the country.
Although the pressure is less intense than that occurring during the 40-day transportation peak around the Lunar New Year, Yuan noted that resources are wasted during the period because most of the trains carried passengers only one way.
“Trains coming back from scenic spots are empty (at the beginning of the Golden Week),” Yuan said.
As for the scenic spots themselves, the sudden rush of visitors swarming into them at the same time causes damage and environmental stress. For example, Sanya of South China’s Hainan Province – a coastal resort – typically receives fewer than 2,000 visitors a day, but several times more during Golden Week, according to Professor Xia.
“Each place has a certain capacity for tourists, so scenic spots hope to see a regular flow of visitors every day, not just on holidays,” he said. The positive effects of Golden Week have begun to fade, while the negative side has become more obvious, Xia added.
He was not the only person to suggest abolishing Golden Week. Many tourism industry experts have commented on the serious problems resulting from Golden Week. At the end of last year, the National Tourism Administration hosted a discussion on the question whether the holiday week should be cancelled, but the final decision was to continue with it.
Zhao Peng, a professor at Beijing Union University, said Golden Week was now disrupting the industry, since people were becoming unwilling to travel during fixed holidays for fear of crowds.
Experts narrowed the options down to two possible replacements for Golden Weeks during the discussion. One was called “small Golden Week,” shortening weekends to one day and postponing the other four days off to the end of every month, thus providing more opportunities for vacations and removing some of the Golden Week pressure. The other idea was to introduce paid leave in all the workplaces in China.
The latter idea has been widely supported, even included in the blueprint for China’s 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05).
At present, Chinese citizens have a total of 114 days off every year (including weekends). According to the 10th five-year plan, workplaces should implement a paid leave policy by the end of this session with more holidays being given to citizens. Xia said the National People’s Congress had considered making the traditional Qingming and Mid-autumn festivals into holidays.
However, Zhang Yuan, official of the Shanghai Municipal Labour & Social Security Bureau, said no detailed rules had been worked out to support the clause about paid leave in the Labour Law.
“It has been 10 years since the law was fixed but each work unit is still carrying on its own regulations in respect to annual leave,” she said.
Although the end of the 10th Five-Year Plan is drawing near, she said the bureau had not yet started to undertake research into a set of specific regulations for the implementation of paid leave.
In addition to technical drawbacks, some people also questioned the wider effects of paid leave.
“Even if paid leave can be put into practice, it might not be practical for a family that wants to go on vacation together at the same time,” said Huang Haiming, a source with the Shanghai China Travel Service.
He thought Golden Week still had the potential to promote the development of airlines and travel agencies, since it was a period when the average expense of travel increased by up to 30 per cent compared to the remainder of the year. According to Huang, who is in charge of tours to South Korea and Japan with the agency,the cost for a trip to Japan is usually 7,000 yuan (US$843) but it climbs to nearly 10,000 yuan (US$1,205) during Golden Week.
A record 150 million people are expected to travel during the 20th Golden Week (May 1-7), with the numbers of people traveling overseas and those using their own cars to get to local attractions both expected to rise.
A government official said that despite the huge flow of people during the Golden Weeks and the problems that causes, the holiday system would remain for at least the next few years, because “there is still a lot of potential to be explored”.
Wang Kecheng of the National Bureau of Statistics, said: “The system has contributed a lot to boosting domestic consumption and demand, which makes its existence necessary.”
He was speaking at a press conference attended by officials from 18 government departments.
Official statistics have shown that the past 19 Golden Weeks have contributed 670 billion yuan ($86.7 billion) to the economy.
Zhang Xiqin, deputy director of the National Tourism Administration, said: “With per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimated to keep growing, there is a huge potential for tourism development during the Golden Week holidays.”
He said that developing tourism and expanding domestic consumption and demand was good for the economy and the trade surplus, unlike investment, “which is already overheated”.
But the government’s decision has not won the full support of the public.
In December, Cai Jiming, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, suggested canceling the weeklong holidays in May and October and replacing them with paid holidays. He also suggested adding four more public holidays to mark traditional festivals.
Prior to Cai’s comments, on October 16, a week after the National Day holiday, an online poll conducted by sohu.com showed that 55 percent of the 9,030 votes received were in favor of keeping the Golden Week holiday system.
However, after Cai’s suggestion was widely publicized on news websites in December, public opinion swayed.
A similar poll conducted by sohu.com on December 7 showed that 65 percent of the more than 40,000 votes were in favor of canceling the system.
Those in support of reforming the system reasoned that the existing public services are insufficient to satisfy demand during the Golden Weeks, so that standards of accommodation, travel and leisure are lowered.
Those in favor of the system said it ensures that every citizen received a holiday. Without it, they said some groups would end up not getting any rest, because the current legal system would be unable to protect them from unscrupulous employers.
Zhang said the government is considering all possible holiday alternatives and would present its findings soon.
Although, he said he personally doubts the benefit of adding a few holidays or adopting the Western system of paid leave.
“The contradiction between supply and demand caused by the huge flow of human traffic is hard to resolve, but it can be eased and that is what we are doing.”