During the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year (CNY) for the Year of the Dragon in 2024, China experienced its busiest annual period of mass migration with a record 9 billion domestic trips expected to be made during a 40-day travel rush around the Lunar New Year holidays. The travel season usually begins 15 days before New Year’s Day and lasts for around 40 days.
The auspicious forecast marked a significant increase from the previous years, with a substantial portion of these trips being self-driving road trips.
However, the surge in domestic tourism has its drawbacks: since the week began, the significant increase in traffic has led to chaos on the mainland’s highways. Long queues have formed, exacerbated by the snowy weather conditions.
The period saw a surge in railway and air travel as well, with nearly 11 million train trips expected on a single day and air passenger trips estimated to reach 2 million. This upsurge in travel demand led to difficulties in securing train tickets despite China having the world’s largest high-speed rail network.
To accommodate the travel rush, additional railway and flights were arranged, including more than 2,500 additional international flights to Asian destinations.
In the Greater Bay Area (GBA), transport operators prepared for the travel surge by boosting their capacity.
A record-breaking 9 billion journeys were anticipated nationwide, with a significant number of these via railway, waterways, highways, and domestic flights, according to official sources.
Air Macau, for example, announced additional flights between Macau and Chengdu to accommodate the increased demand. China Southern increased its flights between Shenzhen and other mainland destinations, and coach stations across Guangzhou added more services. This preparation was part of the efforts to manage the “Chun Yun” or “Spring transportation” which is considered the world’s largest annual migration of people as many Chinese return to their hometowns for family reunions.
The season is also used by many on the mainland or Hong Kong to try their luck and bud tastes in Macau. The local police is expecting up to 6 million border-crossings during the 10-day period of the CNY holiday (February 9-18), a number that will most probably surpass the record levels seen in 2019.
Furthermore, the integration and connectivity between Hong Kong and other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area have been enhanced through various supportive policies and measures. These efforts aim to strengthen cross-border links in areas such as innovation and technology, transportation, public services, and talent. Initiatives like the Northern Metropolis Action Agenda in Hong Kong and the Development Plan for Shenzhen Park of the Hetao Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation Zone are examples of such efforts to boost cooperation and development in the region.
These developments underline a significant push towards facilitating not just travel but broader economic and social integration within the GBA, enhancing the region’s capacity to handle the massive movement of people during significant events like the CNY and bolstering its position as a dynamic economic hub.
Shenzhen emerged as the top destination for inbound travelers within the GBA, accounting for a significant portion of hotel bookings by inbound tourists. Guangzhou was also highly ranked, demonstrating its popularity among visitors. Other cities in the GBA, such as Zhuhai, Foshan, and Zhongshan, were among the top 10 destinations for inbound travelers. This indicates a strong interest and significant travel activity within these cities.
For travelers from Hong Kong and Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou were the preferred mainland cities, followed by Shanghai, Zhuhai, and Beijing. This preference shows a shift from pre-pandemic years, indicating an increasing interest in visiting cities within the GBA.
Although the specific numbers of trips between each of the GBA’s 11 cities and regions were not available, the popularity rankings and travel preferences provide a glimpse into the travel dynamics within the GBA.
The emphasis on cities like Macau, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, alongside others within the region, highlights the GBA’s role as a significant travel and tourism hub, both for domestic and international visitors.
Having that in mind, late last year the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the Guangdong’s Department of Culture and Tourism, and the Macao Government Tourism Office have partnered to promote the GBA as a prime tourism destination. They’ve launched a comprehensive campaign that includes a new all-in-one thematic travel website, showcasing around 90 attractions and experiences across the GBA cities. This initiative aims to highlight the diverse attractions of the area, from local delicacies and cultural heritage to theme park thrills and festive celebrations.