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China’s Lunar New Year Travel Rush Starts, 9bn Trips Expected

A record 9 billion domestic trips are expected to be made over the next six or so weeks, state media has predicted.

Passengers wait to enter a subway near Beijing Train Station, during the Chinese Lunar New Year travel rush in this file photo from February 2019 (Reuters).


Millions of Chinese citizens began jumping on trains, buses and planes on Friday at the start of a 40-day travel rush that happens each year around the Lunar New Year break.

A record 9 billion domestic trips are expected to be made over the next six or so weeks, state media has predicted.

That would be nearly double the 4.7 billion trips made during the so-called Spring Festival travel rush in 2023 when ultra-strict Covid-19 restrictions were abolished.


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Millions of people will travel back to their home towns to reunite with families for the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 10 this year, in the world’s largest mass migration each year.

About 80% of the 9 billion trips will be self-driving road trips, also a record, with the rest by rail, air, and water, Chinese state television CCTV reported, with a surge in retail spending also expected.

Nearly 11 million train trips, the main mode of transportation in China, are expected on Friday. A total of 480 million trips will be made nationwide during the 40-day period, a 38% jump from 2023 and up 17% from 2019 before the pandemic.

Both railway travel and air travel skyrocketed on the first day of this year’s rush. Passengers struggled to get train tickets, even though China is home to the world’s largest high-speed network.

Miranda Guo, a 25-year-old cartoonist from a Hangzhou-based Chinese technology firm, was lucky to have secured a seat on a bullet train to Jinan. But that was only after forking out an additional 60 yuan, 13% of the ticket price, on an “accelerator package” offered by third-party booking apps.

“I think it’s hard to buy a ticket this year, with almost all my colleagues failing to get tickets. Many of them are still on waiting lists,” Guo said.


Train stations, airports bracing for a crush

Air passenger trips are estimated to reach 2 million on Friday, CCTV reported. During this year’s travel rush, the number of trips made by air are expected to surge to 80 million, per China’s aviation regulator, up 9.8% from 2019.

Airports in China’s biggest cities Beijing and Shanghai are bracing for heavy crowds.

Shanghai’s two airports Pudong and Hongqiao expect passenger traffic to surge 57.6% on year in the 40-day period while Beijing’s airports will see a more than 60% jump.

Overseas travel will also rise during the travel peak.

China’s aviation authorities have arranged more than 2,500 additional international flights to Asian destinations including Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea.

Additional railway and flights are also arranged for popular domestic tourism cities including Harbin in northeast China and Sanya, a popular tropical destination in the south.


  • Reuters with additional input and editing by Jim Pollard




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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