Chinese Lunar New Year Travel Plunged by 924 Million in 2023

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The Lunar New Year is the biggest and most celebrated holiday in China each year. Each year Chinese people make billions of trips across the country to visit their families during that holiday period.

However, data recently released by China’s Ministry of Transport indicate that trips during this year’s Lunar New Year—which spans 40 days—had dropped by 924 million compared to 2019, the last pre-pandemic year with no travel restrictions.

The Lunar New Year travel period starts 14 days ahead of Lunar New Year’s Eve usually in late January or early February and lasts for about 40 days.

On Feb. 17, the Chinese Ministry of Transport released the travel data spanning 40 days before and after the 2023 Lunar New Year, the first new year holiday with no travel restrictions since the initial outbreak of COVID-19.

Trips via public transportation by rail, road, water, and plane plunged 46.5 percent to 1.595 billion in the period.

The same period in 2019 saw 2.980 billion trips via public transportation, according to that year’s official data.

The ministry claimed that this year’s total trips during that period were 4.733 billion, which included 1.595 million via public transportation and 3.138 billion in “passenger vehicle traffic via highway.” However, “passenger vehicle traffic via highway,” a new sub-category added in 2023, was not included in prior years.

In the newly released official data, the regime claimed that the “passenger vehicle traffic via highway” in 2023 was 17.2 percent higher than that of 2019 during the Lunar New Year travel period.

This means, according to the claim, the highway passenger vehicle traffic in 2019 was about 2.677 billion.

According to those numbers, the total travel volume in 2023’s Lunar holiday period was 4.733 billion (1.595 billion via public transportation + 3.138 billion in highway passenger vehicle traffic).

Meanwhile, the total travel volume in 2019’s Lunar holiday period was 5.657 billion (2.980 billion via public transportation + 2.677 billion in highway passenger vehicle traffic).

Based on the two official data sources, China saw a decline of 924 million passengers in total travel volume in 2023 compared to 2019 during the same holiday period.

By Kate Jiang and Sean Tseng

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