As the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic gradually lifted across China, I found myself propelled into a realm of exploration, an odyssey that transcended the boundaries of confinement and embraced beauty and culture.
The year 2023 became a canvas for rediscovery, as I spent a little fortune (all my accumulative savings from hard-earned monthly income) to traverse the picturesque landscapes of China.
From the historic streets of Jinan in Shandong province to the sun-kissed shores of Sanya in Hainan province, each destination held a unique allure that beckoned me. It was as if I had entered a phase of retaliatory consumption, a surge of unrestrained wanderlust, and a release of the travel desires suppressed during the pandemic.
As the nation gears up for Spring Festival in February, my excitement is palpable. Plans are meticulously laid out for the next chapter — a journey to Gubei Water Town in Beijing's Miyun district. Accommodations are secured, and the itinerary is crafted to create lasting memories, surrounded by the charm of this picturesque town. This time, it's going to be a family affair, as I plan to share the joys of travel with my parents.
I am probably just one among the hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers releasing pent-up demand in the post-pandemic era, fostering a steady recovery in the tourism sector.
This year, the three-day New Year holiday again proved to be a bumper time for tourism. It saw 135 million domestic trips, with a 155.3 percent year-on-year growth and an increase of 9.4 percent compared to that of 2019. Domestic tourism revenue reached 79.73 billion yuan ($11.08 billion), up 200.7 percent year-on-year and an increase of 5.6 percent over the same period in 2019, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Hong Yong, an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation's e-commerce research institute, said the services sector has become a key driving force boosting China's economic development, and the latest figures indicate China's economy is on track for steady growth.
A private survey showed that China's December services activity expanded at the fastest pace in five months, indicating the economic recovery is showing more signs of gaining further momentum.
The Caixin China General Services Purchasing Managers' Index increased to 52.9 in December from 51.5 in November, media group Caixin said. A PMI reading of above 50 points to expansion, while one below that mark indicates contraction.
Hong said expanding consumption of services is essential to support economic growth, and services consumption and investment are expected to become new growth engines.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that sales of retail services in China grew by 20 percent year-on-year in 2023, outpacing the 7.2 percent year-on-year growth in retail sales last year. The investment in high-tech services jumped 11.4 percent in 2023, significantly higher than the 3 percent growth in fixed-asset investment.
Hong urged more measures to further support the development of service consumption and investment, such as accelerating the opening-up of the services sector and refining the supply of services.
Looking ahead, Lin Xianping, secretary-general of Hangzhou City University's cultural and creative research institute, said China's services sector will continue to pick up in the following months, saying more efforts should be made to create a better development environment for the services sector, improve the quality of the services and foster new types of consumption.