As early as September, some of the most popular domestic tour routes were sold out. This year Beijing, Sanya, Xiamen, Guilin and Qingdao ranked among the hottest travel destinations, according to data from Ctrip.com, a major online travel company headquartered in Shanghai.
Nearly one year after the bottoming-out economy caused potential sightseers to cancel their travel plans, tourists are once again reaching for their cameras and suitcases as China's tourism market seems to be recovering sooner than expected. Train tickets became more difficult to acquire, and airlines began to discontinue special discounts in the run-up to the National Day holiday, the busiest travel week of the year.
The tourism boom comes as a surprise, even among industry insiders. "The market turns out to be much better than we had expected," said Dun Jidong, General Manager of the China Travel Service Head Office Co. Ltd., one of the country's top three travel agencies.
"Given the looming economic downturn and the impact of the A/H1N1 virus, we were less optimistic," he said. "But now, the market is burning hot, and we regret not having booked more seats on our flights."
In addition, railway operators have stepped up vigorous efforts to meet the growing tourist traffic demand. From September 28 to October 8, a total of 33 newly added temporary passenger trains were put into operation to bridge popular tourist cities, including Zhangjiajie of Hunan Province, Shenzhen of Guangdong Province and Kunming of Yunnan Province.
The Ministry of Railways and local operators have additionally taken measures to strengthen its passenger services, including a 24-hour hotline for inquiries and complaints. A number of back-up trains were also prepared for emergency purposes.
In early September, the China Tourism Academy (CTA) predicted that the number of domestic tourists during the National Day holiday would increase 13 percent year on year to reach 200 million. The number, considered a wild exaggeration then, is turning out to be an obvious miscalculation as the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) estimates the number of travelers to be much greater than the anticipated 200 million.
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