China Brief: China on the Move—274 Million Travelers During the May Day Holiday

Chinese travelers are back, and in big numbers.

China recently concluded its May Day Holiday period, which stretched for five consecutive days from April 29 to May 3. After experiencing a solid recovery in consumption in the first quarter of the year, expectations for a resumption of tourist activity during the holiday period were running high.

The results did not disappoint: a staggering 274 million people traveled domestically during this time, a 20 percent increase over the pre-COVID May Day Holiday period in 2019.


Chengdu topped the list with 19 million visitors, a number greater than the city’s population, followed by Shanghai, with 16 million visitors. Another interesting development is that travel to Hainan exceeded that of Hong Kong. Sanya, a major tourist city in Hainan, registered 724,000 visitors, almost three times more than in 2019. 

Double-clicking on the most visited tourist destinations reveals a combination of major Tier-1 metropolises like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing, as well as other popular destinations such as Chengdu (Sichuan), Kunming (Yunnan), and Xi’an (Shaanxi).

In fact, many of the most popular tourist sites reached capacity over the holiday period, including the Summer Palace, Badaling Great Wall, and Lama Temple in Beijing, as well as the Nanjing Museum and the Shanghai Museum. Popular amusement parks, including Shanghai Disneyland and Universal Beijing Resort, also reached maximum capacity. 

The luxury industry in particular is keeping a close watch on the evolution of tourism to Hainan Island and Hong Kong following China’s post-COVID re-opening. In a survey of Greater Bay Area travelers to Hong Kong, conducted in March 2023, 14 percent of respondents indicated they would decrease their luxury spending in Hong Kong and instead shift it to Hainan, or to other regions and channels.

Similar patterns were observed for spending on beauty products and alcohol. During the May Day holiday travel period, both Hong Kong and Hainan saw healthy tourism numbers (724,000 to Sanya/Hainan and 626,000 to Hong Kong). Hong Kong is still widely regarded by Mainland tourists as offering some of the latest products that they consider safe and high-quality. 

In our recent Q1 update on China’s consumption recovery, we used the term “cautiously optimistic” to characterize our outlook. The exceptionally strong travel figures during the May Day holiday period supports our stance. We will continue to monitor summer travel trends and observe how overall consumer confidence evolves in the coming months.

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