China's Great Wall of tourists: Beijing eyes holiday reforms to reduce overcrowding

'Wish you weren't all here': National Tourism Administration suggests dividing holidays into two categories - national and local - so China's millions of travellers need not all visit tourist spots at the same time

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 1:20pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2015, 10:42pm

More than 750 million trips are expected on the roads and rails this National Day holiday, with the train system already handling more passengers in one day than at the peak of the Lunar New Year rush, transport authorities said.

To ease traffic congestion and overcrowding at tourist attractions, a new study by commissioned by the mainland tourism regulator has suggested that Beijing let local governments set their own public holidays.

Roughly 12.5 million train journeys were taken on the first day of the holiday - a record for trips on a single day, according to railway operator China Railway.

The company expected a 10 per cent yearly increase in the number of train trips taken over the "golden week".

The average number of trips made by train during the holiday has already exceeded the number taken on the busiest day of the Lunar New Year travel season, which is dubbed as the world's largest annual human migration.

On the highways, more than 650 million journeys are expected to be made over the holiday week. About four in five vehicles on the highways were sedans, the Ministry of Transport said.

A study by the China National Tourism Administration, released just before the public holiday, called for a new system to categorise holidays into two levels - national and local. The system would help ease congestion during major holidays, the study said.

Under the proposed system, provincial-level administrations would be able to set dates for their own festivals according to local customs and traditions, while the central government would retain the power to set the dates of national holidays.

The mainland presently has 11 official national holidays.

When a holiday falls on a Thursday, for example, the central government gives people the following Friday off as well and asks them to work on Sunday instead. This means most people are on holiday and hit the road at the same time.

The week-long National Day holiday and Lunar New Year break are particularly popular with mainland tourists, millions of whom flock to attractions and shopping districts both at home and abroad.

"The current system causes many people to cram all their trips into the same time periods, and this has caused a slew of negative effects, including heavy traffic congestion … a heavy burden on the environment at tourist attractions, and poor quality of experience for the tourists," a tourism official was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

The tourism administration said the State Council should come up with concrete proposals and push for the introduction of local holiday legislation.