Spring Fes­ti­val puts spring in steps abroad

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG XIN and XIAO LIXIN

The ap­proach of Spring Fes­ti­val could be eas­ily de­tected in over­seas Chi­na­towns shortly af­ter the clock rang in 2015.

Although the new year of the tra­di­tional Chi­nese cal­en­dar starts on Feb 19, Asian restau­rants, gro­ceries and su­per­mar­kets in large for­eign cities around the world were stock­ing up on sea­sonal goods of all kinds, from red lanterns to Spring Fes­ti­val scrolls, for lo­cal Chi­nese res­i­dents to do their Chi­nese New Year shop­ping.

Still, there are nos­tal­gic voices among Chi­nese who com­plain that the lively Spring Fes­ti­val mood that pre­vailed be­fore the 21st cen­tury seems to be fad­ing, even though stan­dards of living were not as high back then.

Tra­di­tions such as spend­ing Chi­nese New Year’s Eve with the fam­ily and sit­ting at din­ner ta­bles graced by a tra­di­tional spread have made way for new prac­tices, they say, as many Chi­nese fam­i­lies have opted to spend Chi­nese New Year over­seas in re­cent years.

This will be the third year that Wei Wei, a 34-year-old col­lege teacher in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, will travel with his ar­chi­tect wife, Yu Shuli, and spend Spring Fes­ti­val in a for­eign coun­try, af­ter they had a pleas­ant time do­ing so in 2013.

“It is too cold in Hangzhou in the win­ter. That was the big­gest rea­son why my wife and I wanted to spend the new year else­where, prefer­ably some­where trop­i­cal,” Wei said. “We were sur­prised that when we men­tioned our plan to our par­ents, they agreed with­out hes­i­ta­tion. They also feel that the Chi­nese New Year has be­come a mere for­mal­ity.”

With ap­proval and sup­port from the older gen­er­a­tion, the cou­ple de­cided to ar­range a trip to Bangkok and Chi­ang­mai in Thai­land dur­ing Chi­nese New Year in 2013.

“Thai­land is the per­fect choice for us, be­cause it not only meets our aim of spend­ing the hol­i­day some­where warm with tasty ex­otic dishes, es­pe­cially fresh seafood, but also be­cause it is less costly in Southeast Asia,” Wei said.

The cou­ple “got ad­dicted” to the idea and de­cided to con­tinue the new prac­tice.

“We went to Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia last year and will go to Thai­land again this year, but this time we will visit Phuket is­land,” he said. “We will fly on Feb 19, af­ter hav­ing the Chi­nese New Year’s Eve din­ner with my par­ents and par­entsin-law.”

Wei’s story is typ­i­cal of a fast-grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese fam­i­lies who choose the al­ter­na­tive way of spend­ing the tra­di­tional hol­i­day.

More Chi­nese are will­ing to travel over­seas than stay at home dur­ing the up­com­ing Spring Fes­ti­val, ac­cord­ing to a re­cently re­leased sur­vey by Ctrip.com, China’s lead­ing on­line travel agency.

About 40 per­cent of the re­spon­dents said they had plans to go abroad dur­ing this Spring Fes­ti­val. For the first time, the fig­ure ex­ceeded that for do­mes­tic travel (37 per­cent) dur­ing the hol­i­day.

The find­ing was echoed by the num­ber of travel bookings on Qu­nar.com, a popular travel search en­gine. Ac­cord­ing to Liu Haibo, Qu­nar’s flight ticket spe­cial­ist, the num­ber of trav­el­ers who made over­seas travel bookings dur­ing the 2015 Chi­nese New Year wit­nessed a huge surge, with a year-on-year in­crease of 350 per­cent.

But with Spring Fes­ti­val ap­proach­ing, those with last­minute travel plans might re­al­ize that ticket prices have sky­rock­eted. Some tick­ets have even dou­bled in price dur­ing the hol­i­day pe­riod.

As di­rect tick­ets can be ex­pen­sive, many tourists have de­cided to book com­par­a­tively cheaper in­di­rect tick­ets. Re­searchers at Ctrip found that those who se­lected the same trip with in­di­rect flights some­times paid up to half the price of di­rect flights.

Ctrip’s ex­perts ad­vise peo­ple to pick the same air­line for con­nect­ing flights where pos­si­ble.

HUWEI / FOR CHINA DAILY

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