Thanks to the digital marketing firm Dragon Trail Interactive and its webinar late last month on the subject, we at INBOUND have a better appreciation of how the seasons and the holidays that go with them affect the patterns of Chinese travelers.
“The more you know about seasonal trends in Chinese tourism and Chinese holidays, the more you can prepare,” explained Sienna Parulis-Cook, associate director of communications for Dragon Trail, who moderated the webinar session.
For instance, because the Chinese holiday calendar is different from the Western one, it creates opportunities for filling the shoulder seasons or low seasons of U.S. destinations and travel suppliers, making tourism more evenly distributed, and more sustainable. It is also important that travel sellers be aware of the Chinese calendar, because, although the same holidays are observed every year, several are tied to the lunar calendar and others are not officially set by the Chinese government until December of the previous year, although the 2020 calendar was released late last month.
The official Chinese public holiday calendar for 2020 shows an extension to the May 1 holiday, as well as an eight-day Golden Week, giving Chinese workers more time off to travel in the new year.
We point out here that the above holidays are not those in the sense that Americans and Europeans understand the word. That is, they are not extra. Usually, Chinese travelers or holidaymakers will work somewhere an extra day in their schedule to compensate for the “extra” day off from their regular workweek because of a holiday.)Chinese New Year: Top Tourism Facts
Understanding the Significance of the Major Chinese Holidays for Travel—First up, Chinese New Year: Those INBOUND readers who follow the Chinese market are no doubt aware of the first major holiday period on the calendar: Chinese New Year, which totals seven days. (Sometimes referred to as one of the two “Golden Week” holidays, it is especially conducive to long-haul travel among passport-holding Chinese travelers.) Each year is named after the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese Calendar.
Next up, beginning January 25, 2020 is the Year of the Rat. Rat? Yes, Rat. “From a marketing perspective, this might seem like a challenge,” said Parulis-Cook, “since rats don’t have a lot of positive connotations in western countries.”
“But,” she added, “there is nothing to worry about. The word in Chinese also means ‘mouse,’ which could be represented in aesthetically pleasing ways.”
Second—National Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, Golden Week No. 2: The second major holiday period for overseas travel, especially for long-haul trips, is China’s National Day, the second “Golden Week,” which starts on October 1 each year. The Mid-Autumn Festival, another one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays, is based on the lunar calendar and is celebrated with one day off. Always around the end of September or beginning of October, Mid-Autumn Festival can sometimes overlap with the National Day holiday, merging into an eight-day holiday. In 2020, the holiday runs eight days, Oct. 1-8.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is noteworthy because it is a time of the year for eating mooncakes. Why? Said Parulis-Cook, “Mooncakes are given to elderly family members … but these days in China they’re also often given to important business partners and clients as a sign of honoring their relationship. If you do have partners and clients in China, you can consider sending mooncakes, or at least sending holiday wishes or some other kind of gift to mark the holiday, as most people usually receive more mooncakes than they can actually eat.”
Third—Not Really a Holiday, but a Season—Summer: The time of the year is important because it is a time for family and student travel, including graduation trips and study tours. Chinese school children generally have six to eight weeks off in the summer. The holiday starts at the beginning to middle of July, with the new school year normally starting on the first Monday in September.
Important to note: There are about 370,000 Chinese students studying at U.S. colleges and universities. Were Chinese students studying in the U.S. a stand-alone market, it would be No. 23—behind Israel and ahead of Chile.
Fourth—the Other Holidays: While extremely important to the Chinese and to those selling short-haul product, the other major holidays listed in the table are not of sufficient length to have a significant impact on travel to the USA, which has held steady in its position as the most visited long-haul market for Chinese travelers.