60 million tipped to tour on holiday break
Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan
China's workers are expected to be rewarded with a seven-day holiday to mark Tuesday's Labour Day, continuing a recent trend of using extended breaks as a means of stimulating the economy.
While tourism officials have suggested more than 60 million visitors could flock to scenic attractions throughout the country, almost a third more than last year's figures, state media has been silent on the plight of the unemployed millions.
Public security officials are taking special precautions to prevent discontented workers taking to the streets on Tuesday to protest against unemployment and mass lay-offs.
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in China said more than 100,000 workers took part in protests throughout last year.
An official circular has been distributed to scenic spots promoting safer travel after a series of transport disasters. Local police departments and Customs officials have been instructed to take special measures to check 'suspicious elements' and travellers who might use the long holidays to engage in sabotage.
Officials said they hoped this year's Labour Day holidays would lead to an extra 20 billion yuan (HK$18.6 billion) in tourism income. Official figures show 46 million tourists joined tour packages during last year's Labour Day holidays, bringing in 18.1 billion yuan.
Xinhua said there had been a surge in interest for long-distance travel this year. But most travellers still preferred to make short trips to the countryside.
Train tickets from Beijing to Shanghai and Huangshan between Monday and Wednesday had sold out, while air tickets from Beijing to Shanghai, Nanjing, Hanzhou, Kunming and Haikou for the same period were 90 per cent sold, Xinhua said. Tourism officials also expect 200,000 people to travel abroad.
Beijing has for four years used a 'long-holiday strategy' in a bid to boost consumer spending, but has yet to announce how long this year's May Day break will be.