More Chinese are taking advantage of reduced travel costs between the Spring Festival and the March pickup. Yang Feiyue reports.

A growing number of Chinese like Liang Jing are discovering

the best time to take a holiday is, well, after the holiday - at least officially and financially speaking.

And perhaps in other ways.

The Shanghai resident opted to stay put during the Spring Festival early this month but headed for Thailand's Koh Samui with her friend for five days at the end of the weeklong national vacation.

She saved a considerable sum. And enjoyed other boons.

"Scenic spots are less crowded after the festival, and tourism services and experiences are better," she says.

It's worth noting Thailand is among the top three destinations for outbound Chinese. She paid 14,000 yuan ($2,150) - roughly half the holiday price.

Retirees, students and office workers are leading the post-holiday charge abroad, tourism experts say.

About 80 percent of Beijing-based Utour International Travel Service's products for late February to mid-March are booked.

"Most of our guests are white-collar workers who've decided to take their annual paid leave after the holiday to enjoy cheaper, cheerful trips," explains Utour's publicity manager, Li Mengran.

Short-distance outbound destinations, including Southeast Asian islands, Japan and South Korea, are particularly popular among post-festival travelers, she says.

Prices are expected to rise again by late March. Many people, especially retirees, will hit the road to enjoy springtime - especially to visit places with flowers.

Cheaper airfares and hotels during the post-holiday period have slashed costs for outbound travelers by 20-60 percent, Ctrip reports. That translates to between 1,000 and 6,000 yuan.

"Demand has become strong," says Ctrip's marketing manager, Dai Yu.

"So timing is key to saving."

The nation's average monthly income in the fourth quarter was roughly 6,000 yuan. Tourists who choose to travel to such destinations as Japan after the holiday can save up to 3,000 yuan, Dai says.

Some chose to work during the festival and take days off afterward.

The overtime pay plus the reduced costs, in some cases, can add up to more than 10,000 yuan, Ctrip reports.

Meanwhile, costs for visits to India dropped most sharply, at 60 percent, Ctrip reports. The United States came in second, with a 40 percent reduction.

Ctrip's packages to popular destinations, such as Thailand, Japan and South Korea, are generally at least 30 percent cheaper.

Favorable currency exchange rates in Malaysia and Australia are also good news for Chinese tourists. They can buy more for less, the travel agency says.

Now, the cost for Ctrip's four-day individual trip departing on March 7 to South Korea has plummeted to 1,800 yuan from 3,500 yuan on Feb 8, the festival's first day.

"Relaxed visa policies substantially increased market demand during the festival, leading to significant increases in hotel and air ticket prices," Li says.

"But costs have returned to normal".

The costs of six-day trips to Japan's Hokkaido from Utour have gone back to 7,000-9,000 yuan from 15,000 yuan during the Spring Festival. Five-to-nine-day trips to Thailand are now around 3,000-5,000 yuan instead of 10,000 yuan during the holiday.

Several long-distance getaways are also cheaper.

An eight-day tour on Ctrip's website that covers Australia's Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast in March has dropped to 12,000 yuan from 21,500 yuan during Spring Festival.

Domestic tourism costs have also plummeted 30-50 percent.

Some tourists have even booked May trips to enjoy cheaper prices offered by Ctrip to snag post-holiday promotions.

An eight-day trip to Yunnan province's Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Xishuangbanna from Shanghai is now 2,000 yuan - half the holiday price.

A four-day trip to Jiangxi province's Wuyuan county from Shanghai is now a little more than 800 yuan. A three-day trip to Fujian province's Wuyi Mountain costs around 1,400 yuan.

Prices will again surge in March.

But cost-conscious tourists can save big if they book trips for that month now.

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The Wuyi Mountain scenic area in Fujian province retains its peace and tranquility in the offseason due to a relatively small number of tourists. Yang Enuo / For China Daily

 The time to save

Chinese tourists watch a performance in Bali, a top destination for outbound Chinese.Kuang Linhua / China Daily

The time to save

(China Daily USA 02/24/2016 page8)


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