Throughout the week, Chinese social media sites were abuzz
with reports from disgruntled tourists complaining about
lengthy queues, chronic overcrowding, and awful traffic. One
popular post on Weibo, China‘s top social network, featured
pictures of tourists stuck in highway traffic jams getting
out of their cars to play tennis or host picnics on the road.
Another showed pictures of the beaches in the island province
of Hainan covered in a thick blanket of tourist-created
trash. A third told of a camel that dropped dead of
exhaustion after ferrying tourists through the Gobi desert in
the northwestern town of Dunhuang.
(PHOTOS: Chinese Tourists in North Korea)
While travelers groaned, though, economists must have been
grinning. For months, China-watchers have been worrying about
the prospect of a ‘hard-landing’ for the Chinese economy.
China’s economic planners have been working to shift China’
s economy away from reliance on government-funded
infrastructure spending and low-value manufacturing and
toward a more consumer-driven model of growth. Thus far,
their efforts have had limited success, with consumers
largely choosing to hold onto their cash rather than fritter
it away on discretionary spending. Meanwhile, demand for
Chinese-made products from Europe and the US continues to
lag, and China analysts are not convinced that the domestic
consumers are ready to replace the flagging low-end
manufacturing sector. Could the crowds signal that better
times are coming?
Some are cautiously optimistic. Travelers pumped close to $35
billion into the domestic economy during the 7-day Golden
Week period at the start of October, an increase of 45%
compared to the same period last year. “People who believe
China is mired in a crisis, with slumping growth and falling
stock prices, could be shocked by this strong tourism data,”
Ting Lu, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, wrote
in a recent report. The promising tourism data, he says,
indicates that consumption spending is increasingly shifting
towards leisure pursuits.
(MORE: The Holiday Hustle: Chinese Travelers Are Tired of
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