Rush for foreign trips starts early

By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-07 16:56
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Some people with a hankering to get out of the capital during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day Holiday are finding they have already left it too late to book the trip they want.

"I asked several travel agencies and almost all the groups to Europe at the end of the month are full," said Chen Min, who had been hoping to visit Europe during the upcoming holidays in late September and early October.

Industry insiders say the rush to book holidays this year started earlier than usual.

"Tourists started booking their Mid-Autumn and National Day Holiday trips almost three months ago, which is a month earlier than usual," said Zhang Wei, the manager of the outbound travel department at the China International Travel Service in Beijing.

"Bookings for trips to the United States, for example, peaked in July. As of now, all the outbound groups heading to Europe and Japan are nearly sold out."

Zhang said Europe is one of this year's hot spots.

"The current exchange rate of the yuan to the euro has dropped, which is like a discount in the traveling fee," said Zhang. "And some tourists postponed their European tours planned for earlier this year to avoid the snow in the winter and the volcanic ash in April. All of that has contributed to the popularity of the European tours."

Ding Ding, a marketing manager at the Byecity Travel Website in Beijing, said the Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays are a golden time because people get plenty of vacation from work.

"The long holidays make the average 10-day European trip possible for nine-to-five workers," said Ding.

"In addition to traditional trips to France, Italy and Switzerland, more optional routes, covering southern and eastern Europe, are being offered this holiday season, which has also contributed to the boom."

Ding said Japan and Canada are also popular with tourists this year.

After Japan lowered its entry requirements for Chinese visitors, more people are willing to have a close look at the country.

Hu Yong, who took a cruise to Japan in August, said he wants to go back in October for a closer look because the cruise ship only allowed him to see a few coastal cities.

"That made it difficult for me to get a comprehensive idea of the country," Hu said.

Because of its Approved Destination Status, Canada has become another option for Chinese tourists.

Three tours to Canada are routinely offered through the China International Travel Service.

"The groups sell well and are almost always sold out, despite the relatively high price of 20,000 yuan," Zhang said.

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The cost of traveling during the Mid-Autumn and National Day holidays typically increases by between 10 and 20 percent because of the additional demand. This year, most busy-season holidays are 5 to 10 percent more than they were last year, industry insiders said.

"For trips to Europe, the price has risen from 14,000 to 16,000 yuan and Japan trips cost about 6,000 yuan - 2,000 yuan more than usual," said Ma Nan, marketing manager of Beijing UTour International Travel Service.

Prices for tours to Australia and Africa have also gone up sharply since the end of August because the Southern Hemisphere countries are approaching their spring, a peak time for tourism, Ma said.

Wang Song, who will travel to Japan on Sept 27, said, regardless of the cost, traveling during the holidays is a must.

"It is a cherished opportunity to have a holiday abroad with my family and the price is not a concern," Wang said.