Six-day break in Beijing triggers exodus

Six-day break in Beijing triggers exodus

Li Chenguang, a 26-year-old Beijing telecommunications worker, was one of thousands of travelers packing into Beijing South Railway Station on Friday at the start of a six-day holiday in the capital during the APEC meetings.

He is using the break to make a long-planned visit to Zhejiang province with friends, but was surprised by the crowds.

"There must be twice as many passengers as normal in the station, and the waiting hall is crowded with families and young people like us," he said.

Li works at a branch of China Telecom and has been planning a trip for months. He and his companions took a high-speed train to Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang.

Public sector employees in the capital have been granted a six-day break while the APEC meetings are held.

The exodus began on Thursday, with the Beijing Railway Bureau reporting that more than 410,000 passengers took trains out of the city.

The number was expected to rise to 467,000 on Friday, the first day of the holiday.

The bureau said the numbers are comparable to the seven-day National Day holiday in October, when an average of 650,000 passengers a day left the city.

Air passengers leaving Beijing, especially for tourist destinations, are also expected to increase dramatically during the APEC meetings.

China Southern Airlines said its flights to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, and Sanya, Hainan province, will be more than 90 per cent full.

Wen Hong, a Beijing high school teacher who plans to visit Shanghai for three days during the holiday, said many of his colleagues had to take trains because it was hard to book flights during the APEC meetings.

A survey by Beijing research company HorizonKey found that 40 per cent of those taking a vacation plan to go sightseeing.

The break is expected to further boost the tourism industry in cities such as Sanya in tropical Hainan province.

Dai Yu, marketing director of the Tourism Department at online travel service provider Ctrip, said tropical cities with clean air have become more attractive to Beijing residents, as the capital is usually plagued by heavy smog in winter.

"Many tourism destinations and tourism-related industries, including hotels, are promoting their products by giving discounts to Beijing residents during the APEC holiday," Dai said.

Of the country's 10 top tourism destinations, nine are in southern and western areas. Based on sales, Sanya will be the top destination for Beijing visitors during APEC.

Shanghai, Lijiang in Yunnan province and Xiamen in Fujian province are also listed in the top 10 destinations.

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