Good news! If you’re born in the Year of Monkey you are generally smart, clever and intelligent! (Did I mention charming?)
And don’t worry if you’re not a monkey, I’m a pig (in the nicest possible way!) the year ahead also means anything associated with the water element will bring good luck. Industries like shipping, banking, spas, and tourism are set to be extremely successful.
So with that in mind, there’s no surprise that as the Year of the Monkey swings into action……so too will about 100-million Chinese nationals.
Yes, I kid you not. That’s 100-MILLION Chinese who will travel over the Spring Festival – making it officially the busiest travel season in the world!
And with just six per cent of the 1.3 billion population holding a passport, you can only imagine as more and more Chinese get their hands on that small but necessary travel document, that number is only set to increase! Experts predict there will be around 234 million Chinese travelling during CNY within the next few years.
Traditionally, in China, CNY, Spring Festival (or ‘Chun Jie’ as it’s known ‘round these parts) is all about family — celebrating a year of hard work, having a rest, reuniting and relaxing with loved ones.
With China’s rapid urbanisation from the country’s rural areas into the cities, there’s a colossal number of people clambering to get back to their hometowns for the festive season.
From the giant, first tier employment hubs of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, all roads lead to
Rome home with hundreds of rural villages in China, literally springing to life!
Red lanterns rule the sky, swinging brightly above towns and cities. You’ll witness everything from lettuce-eating lions to dynamic dancing dragons, not to mention the continual sound of fireworks crackling in the night (and day) air!
Naturally, there are plenty of customs that go hand in hand with CNY….you can make sure you’re up with those here (and be sure to wear your red underwear)!
As you can imagine, on the roads it’s absolute chaos and planes and trains are jam packed with hoards of workers and university students scrambling to book tickets and catch flights. It’s that time of the year when locals will often do whatever it takes to get home, even if that means taking a 20 hour train ride, standing! (FYI, on China’s trains you can purchase Hard Sleeper tickets, Soft Sleeper tickets, soft and hard seats and standing tickets.)
But for many, these days, the Spring Festival is not all about returning home. There are some who simply don’t want to go home for fear of being ‘hen-pecked’ about everything from job status to marital status not to mention how they’re doing on the ladder of wealth accumulation.
Generally, if you’re over 27 and still single, you’re under pressure to “get hitched”, particularly if you’re one of China’s Sheng Nu or “leftover women.”
There’s also the small but pressing issue of Hong Bao! Also known as Lai See, these red and gold envelopes contain ‘lucky cash’ and if you’ve never been on the giving or receiving end, there are a few rules one needs to follow! Don’t be like me and get caught out! Read those here:
In the last couple of years, technology in China has given new meaning to sending Hong Bao! We Chat, China’s largest social media app (a cross between What’s App/Facebook/Twitter/PayPal) has introduced a Hong Bao ‘Lucky Money” icon where you can send your friends and family a red envelope with the simple touch of a button!
Family issues aside, with China’s newly-wealthy middle class on the rise, there are many Chinese now choosing to go on holiday elsewhere! This coupled with visa restrictions being eased for many countries and many more flight options available from China, has opened up a plethora of new travelling opportunities right around the globe.
This year domestic and international airlines will begin more than 200 new overseas routes out of China. Oh and China also plans to build 66 new airports in its next five year plan.
China’s largest travel operator CTrip says – more than 60 percent of Chinese tourists will spend Spring Festival overseas. The farthest destination is the Antarctic. FYI: These are the top destinations:
3. South Korea
6. Hong Kong
7. United States
World tourism destinations expect to see nearly 6 million visits by Chinese tourists, possibly the highest number on record, this Spring Festival. The Chinese Government has again reiterated the need for travellers to be on their best behaviour! (No monkeying around!)
Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald also reports that the number of Chinese visitors to Australia within 12 months surpassed a million for the first time.
The University of Queensland and the Queensland Police Service have even joined forces to develop a safety brochure for tourists travelling to North Queensland.
Printed in English and Chinese it highlights the need for water safety, accommodation security and personal safety.
And it seems, despite China’s slowing economy and unexpected dip in the value of Chinese currency, Chinese tourists, are still keen to open their wallets and spend on overseas trips.
So what do Chinese tourists want? What’s on their bucket list?
According to the experts, luxury shopping is at the top of the list, Chinese language services, good food (including plenty of noodles and congee) and great experiences follow closely.
About one-third of luxury purchases worldwide are made by Chinese consumers.
Every man and his dog is racing the clock to cater to these new travellers on the block! Emirates Airline, capitalised on these retail-crazy Chinese travellers by simply boosting their baggage allowance. Hotels have added congee to the menu and slippers by your bedside.
Such is the demand for Japanese goods these days, Bakugai, the Japanese word for “explosive buying by Chinese tourists” has been declared the country’s ‘buzz’ word of the year.
What about foreigners travelling to China?
Inbound tourism is also thriving, China ranking 4th globally in terms of international arrivals.
In 2014, over 55 million international travellers visited China. And while Chinese New Year is not exactly the ideal time to travel through China, some of the bigger cities will be thinned out with locals well and truly out of town! Now’s a good time to head up to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or even Xi’an! (Stop by and say hi!)
Your best bet is to choose high speed trains, which are much more comfortable and slightly less crowded. The number of standing tickets is limited to 7% of the total seated capacity. And need I tell you, be sure to book way in advance! Here’s a list of what you need to bring!
It’s the Year of the Monkey and 2016 is said to be the perfect time to create change.
What are you waiting for….jump on board the travel train!