LONDON — China may be helping to fuel strong luxury growth during the pandemic, but the picture of overall spending is looking less bright.
The restrictions on movement imposed due to sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks and the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics weakened spending during China’s Lunar New Year holiday period, which traditionally is a lucrative time for the retail, transportation and hospitality sectors.
Similar to last year, local authorities came up with various requirements, such as multiple tests, approval from employers, and even quarantines for those who travel from areas deemed high risk, to prevent people from embarking on Chunyun, which means the Spring Festival travel season in Chinese.
Some three billion trips were made on average each year during Chunyun before the pandemic. It’s estimated that over 500 million people — with many concentrated in economic powerhouses such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen — are discouraged from returning to their hometowns this year.
Data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism shows that total tourist receipts for the seven-day national holiday that began on Jan. 31 dropped 3.9 percent compared to 2021 to 289.2 billion renminbi, or $45.5 billion, while domestic trips dropped 2 percent to 251 million.
When compared to the pre-pandemic numbers from 2019, 2022’s tourist receipts and domestic trips were 56.3 percent and 73.9 percent of the totals three years ago, respectively.
On the bright side, being trapped in these big cities helped boost online orders and local business.
Data from JD.com showed that home appliances and perfume and cosmetic orders increased by 6.9 and 2.7 times, respectively, in the period between Jan. 7 and Feb. 4. Orders for men’s grooming products also jumped more than three times.
Shenzhen and Guangzhou were the cities with the most orders sent to other places, while Chongqing and Beijing were the cities that received the most orders from other places, JD.com revealed.
While Beijing implements “closed-loop” controls, which involve sealing off over 40 Olympic venues in Beijing, the suburb of Yanqing and cohost city Zhangjiakou, to prevent infection among some 3,000 Winter Olympics athletes, data from Alibaba showed that sales of items related to winter sports and the Winter Olympics have skyrocketed.
Between Jan. 31 Jan and Feb. 4, sales of skiing equipment grew by 180 percent on Tmall, while items for ice sports jumped over 300 percent.
On the night of the opening ceremony, over one million users visited the Olympics Games official Tmall store, and items featuring the official mascot Bing Dwen Dwen were sold out immediately.
So did the Arc’teryx parka worn by China President Xi Jinping. According to multiple screenshots of online chats recorded between the brand’s sales associates and eager buyers on Weibo, the same style he wore, priced at 9,000 renminbi, or $1,418, was sold out everywhere online in China that night.
Data from Fliggy, Alibaba’s travel booking business unit, showed that orders for ice and snow travel trips during the lunar holiday grew by more than 30 percent year-over-year.
Orders for ski resorts such as Changbai Mountain in Jilin, Yabuli in Heilongjiang, and Anji in Huzhou grew rapidly. Indoor ski resorts in Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu have also become destinations for those who decided not to travel back to their hometowns during the Chinese New Year.