China Spends Big on Holiday Travel, Movies and Cruises

Spending is up, even with growth slowing and stocks slumping.

Visits to the annual ice festival in Harbin jumped about 16 percent from last year, to more than 300,000.

Visits to the annual ice festival in Harbin jumped about 16 percent from last year, to more than 300,000.

Jeff Kearns

China's consumers increased spending on travel and entertainment as hundreds of millions of people traveled to spend time with family during the week-long holiday last week.

People spent at least 312 billion yuan ($48 billion) during the lunar New Year period, when schools and businesses shut down. That record spending came to 31 percent more than during last year's holidays, according to China UnionPay Co., which runs the national bank card network. 

Chinese Consumer Spending Hits Record During Holiday

Travel transactions were up 42 percent, with the government projecting that people will make 2.91 billion trips during the 40-day festival, which sets in motion the world's largest annual human migration.

"The tourism market expanded rapidly, driven by long-term consumption upgrades to the 'happiness economy' and good weather across China," China International Capital Corp. analysts wrote.

  •  Tourism revenue was up 16 percent from last year, the National Tourism Administration said.
  • Trains carried a record 10.3 million passengers on Sunday, according to the state-run rail network.
  • Three times as many people as last year went on luxury cruises, travel website Ctrip.com said.
Shoppers look for bargains at a Carrefour holiday sale in Harbin, China.
Shoppers look for bargains at a Carrefour holiday sale in Harbin, China.
Jeff Kearns

Movies also got a boost as the holiday came in a Monday-to-Sunday period this year while coinciding with Valentine's Day. Ticket sales rose 67.7 percent, to a record 3.1 billion yuan, according to entertainment research firm EntGroup Inc. in Beijing. The most popular film was `The Mermaid,' which earned 1.79 billion yuan.

While mainland Chinese tourists poured into Macau, the world’s largest gaming center, in greater numbers during the holiday week, gambling revenues extended an almost two-year slump as high-rollers stayed home. Tourism from the mainland to Hong Kong dropped over the holidays.

There was even good news up in the frigid northeast, often called China's Rust Belt for its struggling mines and factories. Visitors to the annual ice festival in Harbin climbed by about 16 percent, to more than 300,000, according to the organizers.