Crisis-hit Guangdong to resume 'golden week' holiday in May
Chloe Lai in Guangzhou and Dennis Eng
Guangdong will reinstate the week-long 'golden week' in May - just a year after Beijing scrapped the national holiday - to boost consumer spending as the financial crisis batters the province's economy.
But to enjoy a seven-day break from May 1, people will have to give up two days of annual leave.
They will get their statutory holiday on May 1 and normal weekend off on May 2 and 3, while the holidays on May 4 and 5 will be made up by working on the subsequent weekend (May 9 and 10). The holidays on May 6 and 7 will be taken from annual leave.
National Tourism Administration spokesman Liu Xiaojun said early this month that local governments could extend the holiday if their economies needed extra stimulus measures, although the central government had no plan to do so.
The May Day holiday was shortened to three days last year, while three holidays - for the Ching Ming, Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn festivals - were created.
Guangdong has seen exports drop 20.7 per cent in the first two months of this year.
The scheme will be compulsory for government offices and there will be no meetings for officials in the first half of May. However, it will be optional for the private sector.
Paul Leung Yiu-lam, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Travel Agents, welcomed news of the golden week. He said affordable hotel room rates in Hong Kong had been key to driving up the number of mainland visitors. 'The first three days of the golden week will be very busy and, with the long weekend, the number of mainland visitors will definitely rise from last year,' Mr Leung said.
With the Tourism Board forecasting a 12.4 per cent drop in visitors from long-haul destinations this year because of the global downturn, Hong Kong is relying heavily on mainland arrivals to boost its tourism and retail industries. The number of mainland arrivals in May last year improved 6.4 per cent from 2007, Tourism Board data shows, and Mr Leung said the golden week should see a further rise this year.
But the move to reinstate golden week has drawn mixed reactions on the mainland. Ms Zhang, a white-collar worker in Guangzhou, said she was dismayed by the U-turn.
'I should have the right to decide when to take my annual leave,' she said. 'Fortunately my boss has already said he will not force us to use our annual leave, although he hasn't decided how many days of holiday we will have in May.'
Yi Xianrong, a finance professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said he believed the private sector would not follow the provincial government's lead. 'Many people prefer staying at home during the golden week holiday because the streets are so crowded and the service is terrible,' Professor Yi said. 'There isn't much of a relationship between having a holiday and spending.'
The more the merrier
Hong Kong is counting on mainlanders to boost tourism and retail businesses
The number of mainland visitors in May last year improved from 2007 by: 6.4%