The number of trips taken by Chinese tourists over the country’s biggest holiday periods since Wuhan lifted its lockdown is expected to drop by half. According to a leading travel agency, only 90 million trips are expected to be taken during the five-day break, which starts on May 1 with International Labour Day, with most people planning to stay within the country and staying at luxury hotels. This compares with the 195 million domestic trips taken during last year’s holiday. Shanghai-based travel website Trip.com said the May break marked the first peak travel season after the Lunar new year, and estimated domestic travel could double the numbers seen in early April when more than 43 million trips were taken within China during the Ching Ming Festival. The tomb-sweeping festival of Ching Ming is a time when families traditionally visit the graves of their ancestors but, after months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic , the three-day holiday saw a significant increase in hotel bookings on the mainland, giving the Chinese tourism sector hope for a similar upswing for the May break. Trip.com said that unlike in previous years, very few people would be travelling far this time, with tourists shifting their interest from interprovincial and outbound destinations to holidays closer to home. International travel has been severely disrupted by the pandemic, with overseas flights from China unavailable or priced out of reach. The Chinese government is also discouraging overseas travel, with the foreign ministry advising the public not to go abroad and travel agencies barred from organising tours for holidaymakers outside their home provinces. Hotels look forward to Labour Day holiday amid green shoots of recovery Despite the relatively long holiday – at five days, this year’s May Day break is the longest in 13 years – most people will refrain from leaving their home cities, with safety from the continuing threat of the coronavirus a major concern. A Shanghai housewife, who wished to be known only as Vicki, said her family would be spending the May holiday in the city, with plans to visit a relative, have a barbecue with friends in the suburbs, and spend time in the large suburban parks where they could avoid crowds. “If I leave Shanghai, I will probably need to be quarantined for 14 days when I return. What’s more, my son’s primary school required us not to go out of Shanghai during this period,” she said. In past years, Vicki said she and her family had travelled frequently, both domestically and abroad, but would be staying at home for the rest of the year. “Without this pandemic, we would have already arranged travel for a summer vacation much earlier on.” Doreen Lin, a manager at a financial service company in Shanghai, had similar concerns. “We won’t travel outside Shanghai. Actually we are accustomed to this lockdown life, with my son having not stepped out of our residential block since January,” she said. Those who are intending to travel during the May Day holiday are booking smaller and shorter breaks, with Trip.com reporting a “remarkable” increase in trips for groups of three to six people, lasting just three or four days. Travel agents selling meatballs? China’s tourism sector gets creative Younger travellers, in their teens and 20s, have emerged as the driving force for this holiday, comprising 57 per cent of total bookings. Trip.com said reservations for car rentals were at 70 per cent of the same period last year, thanks to the privacy, cleanliness and freedom of car travel. It also said 55 per cent of hotels booked were rated four or five stars. “This year, people’s enthusiasm for travel has been suppressed. Besides that, outbound travel has been frozen, with many high-end clients shifting to travel within the country,” a company spokesman said. “Safety concerns mean that people are also paying attention to their travel quality. All these reasons have contributed to the popularity of upmarket hotels.” It was a similar story at Lvmama.com, another online travel agency. The company’s chairman, Wang Xiaosong, said the Covid-19 outbreak had led to less interest from consumers compared to previous years, but those who were taking breaks were looking for a “better travel experience”. Consequently, Lvmama.com had seen 58 per cent of hotel users choosing resorts with fewer rooms, beautiful locations and a more independent holiday experience. During the Ching Ming Festival, some popular tourist spots in China saw large crowds of visitors, prompting the travel ministry and the National Health Commission to issue a notice requiring tourism destinations across the country to open outdoor areas only and adopt reservation systems and other measures to keep visitor traffic below 30 per cent of maximum capacity. Piecemeal lifting of coronavirus travel restrictions likely, say experts Many of those who are planning to travel during the May Day holiday have met with opposition from their families, including Shen Ting, a white-collar worker from Guilin in the southern province of Guangxi, who will be taking a road trip with a dozen friends to the western part of Sichuan province in the southwest. “My family didn’t agree with me on this trip. But I don’t care. I am not a kid,” said Shen, 35, adding that she and her friends would be wearing masks during the journey, with four people in each car. “The route we have chosen has little traffic. What’s more, there are no coronavirus cases in that region so it should be fine to go there,” she said. The next major test for China’s re-emerging tourism industry after the May holiday will be Golden Week, which follows China’s National Day celebrations in October.