China has officially kicked off its largest annual population migration, the beginning of the Spring Festival travel rush, also known as chunyun. The Lunar New Year travel period, spanning from January 26 to March 5, to witness a 9 billion passenger trips within China, setting a new record.
The Ministry of Transport predicts that 9 billion trips will be made during the 40-day travel peak, with an average of 12 million trips daily.
This figure is nearly double the 4.7 billion trips recorded during the 2023 Lunar New Year travel rush when strict COVID-19 restrictions were in place.
The surge is contributed to the easing of pandemic measures and the pent-up demand for family reunions.
Approximately 80% of the trips are expected to be self-driving road journeys, reaching a new record. The remaining 20% will be distributed among rail, air, and water transportation.
The first day of Lunar New Year saw a spike in both railway and air travel, with passengers facing challenges in securing tickets, even on China’s high-speed rail network.
The backbone of China’s transportation system, the railway, is expected to handle 480 million trips during the 40-day period, marking a 38% increase from the previous year and a 17% increase from 2019.
Airports in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai are preparing for heavy crowds, with an estimated 2 million air passenger trips on the first day alone. Throughout the travel rush, air travel is projected to surge to 80 million trips, a 9.8% increase from 2019.
China’s aviation authorities have arranged more than 2,500 additional international flights to Asian destinations, including Southeast Asia, Japan, and South Korea, an increase in overseas travel during the peak period.
Popular tourist destinations such as Harbin in northeast China and Sanya in the south are saw increased travel arrangements, with additional railway and flight services.
The ice-snow trips in Harbin and tropical getaways in Sanya contribute to the flourishing domestic tourism sector.
The agreement on mutual visa exemption between China and Singapore is expected to stimulate international tourism, as travelers from both countries can enjoy visa-free travel for 30 days.
The Lunar New Year travel rush announcement has already led to a surge in searches for hotels in Singapore on Chinese travel platforms.
Airlines like Air China are responding to the demand by arranging an increased number of flights, shows the resilience and growth of the transportation sector.
The high demand for transportation has led to ticket shortages, making passengers to seek alternative solutions, such as third-party booking apps offering accelerator packages.
To ensure a smooth travel experience, authorities are reinforcing the monitoring of road network operations, improving traffic efficiency at toll stations, and enhancing service areas’ quality and capacity.
Emphasis is placed on implementing necessary measures to defuse risks, ensure safe traffic flows, and prevent accidents during the travel rush, as addressed in the Ministry of Public Security’s traffic management plan.
The property sector, facing a 1.3% decline in value in 2023, remains a concern. Authorities are implementing supportive measures to stimulate home purchases, but ongoing troubles in the property market show a risk to economic stability.
Economists address the importance of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and private businesses.
These entities, contributing over 60% to China’s GDP and 80% of jobs, need targeted assistance to recover fully from the pandemic-induced losses.