Chinese govt. expects Lunar New Year travel to reach record high

The Chinese government says it expects a record number of people will be on the move for the Lunar New Year holidays that start Saturday.

Officials say 9 billion trips are likely to be made during the 40 days around the holiday period.

They say travel by self-owned cars is expected to be more than double that of last year, and account for about 80 percent of the projected trips.

Travel by rail, plane and other public transportation systems are expected to rise by just over 10 percent from last year.

This is the first time the Chinese government has released forecasts for self-driving road trips.

The move is apparently aimed at stressing that demand for travel is strong, even though the slowdown in the Chinese economy is prompting citizens to spend less.

Overseas travel is also expected to rise, as China has resumed allowing group tours.

On Friday, an airport in the southern city of Guangzhou was busy with families going overseas, along with people heading to their hometowns.

Travelers formed long lines at check-in counters for international flights.

A man heading for Vietnam with his daughter and others said he initially planned to visit China's northeastern region to see the snow, but found it expensive. He says the trip to Vietnam was relatively affordable, adding that he hopes to relax at the beach.

A woman traveling to Japan with her family said the country is close and convenient to visit. She said she hopes to see Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka.

Major online travel agency Ctrip says bookings for international travel during the holidays were up more than 10-fold as of mid-January from the same period last year. It said Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Australia are among the most popular destinations.

However, the Japanese Embassy in Beijing says the number of visas issued by Japanese consulates in mainland China, excluding Hong Kong, remains at around 60 percent of pre-coronavirus-pandemic levels in 2019. The embassy says it believes the main factor is that the number of flights between the two countries has not yet recovered to the level before the pandemic.