Gold rush: Chinese head out on holiday en masse, skirting Taiwan and Hong Kong

Fri Sep 30, 2016 5:22am EDT
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By Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) - Millions of Chinese tourists are packing their bags for distant and not-too distant shores for the National Day holiday, with early indicators pointing to a slump in bookings for neighboring Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The "Golden Week" break, which starts on Saturday in one of the world's biggest mass movements by plane, boat and train, offers an important snapshot of Chinese holidaymakers and their changing tastes and habits as economic growth at home stutters.

It is also a peak season for retailers outside China looking to lift their top line. Singapore is luring Chinese shoppers with discounts and promotions while South Korea is trumpeting a month-long Korea Grand Sale.

Shinsegae Duty Free in Seoul's Myeongdong area popular with Chinese has been making preparations since July.

"We are expecting many Chinese tourists, so we think sales will increase a lot," shop official Ahn Joo-yeon told Reuters.

Thailand expects 220,000 Chinese visitors during the break, up about 30 percent from last year, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told Reuters, despite a doubling in visa fees, a spate of bombings in the south of the country and fears of the spread of the Zika virus.

Thailand confirmed on Friday that Zika had caused two cases of microcephaly, a condition that results in babies being born with small heads, the first time the condition had been linked to Zika in Southeast Asia.

"So far there has been no impact (from Zika fears) on our Thailand route," said Wang Yanfei, market and PR manager at Shanghai Spring International Travel Service, the parent of Spring Airlines.   Continued...

Passengers crowd at a railway station in Hangzhou ahead of the Chinese National Day holiday in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer