Cold season heats up travel market

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Travelers could have much more room to get good bargains next month

Holiday-goers in Beijing now have an abundant choice of bargains on the tourism market as travel expenses drop by more than half for the upcoming cold season.

Reduced domestic flight tickets to holiday destinations and their accommodation fees have pulled down overall prices for both March and April by up to 70 percent after the Chinese New Year break, one of the two travel peaks of the year.

This year, the weeklong holiday saw nearly 50,000 tourists use agencies to journey to and from the capital each day, a year-to-year increase of more than 10 percent.

METRO also found yesterday that tour group expenses to popular destinations in Asia, Europe and other regions have also seen a cut of 15 percent after the level of tourists dropped to only half compared to the peak time last week.

The big cuts have appealed to mainly retired residents and newly-weds in Beijing who are eager to use their delayed vacations in the following two months, METRO discovered. Office workers, on the other hand, are pinned down to work during the off season, travel specialists said.

"We got married during Spring Festival, so we set our honeymoon trip to Europe in March," said Cheng Feng, 28, a government employee in Beijing. "We didn't exactly plan for a cheaper trip, but my wife and I are both happy we can spend 2,000 yuan less than usual."

Cheng told METRO yesterday he is about to book his 12-day honeymoon trip to France, Italy and Switzerland next month through a major travel agent chain in the capital. The trip, nearly 15,000 yuan per person during peak season, has dropped to about 12,500 yuan now.

Yang Shichao, a travel consultant with the Caissa travel service in Beijing, said travel agencies need to apply for off-season prices as they are "hungry for clients" right after the busy Spring Festival period.

"Not a single outbound tour group will set off from Beijing at our company in the rest of February, which is the normal situation after a peak season each year," Yang said. "The next time we see groups heading out will be March."

Wu Shaohua, a retail department manager with the State-owned China International Travel Service in Chongwenmen area, said dozens of elderly Beijingers visited his branch since last Saturday to get cheaper tour packages to domestic destinations including Taiwan and other coastal resorts, as well as overseas regions like Japan and World Cup host South Africa.

"Elderly residents are free to take off anytime and the off-season is definitely for them," said Wu.

Caissa service, which specializes in overseas trips, said they have received more calls from white-collar workers wanting to book European holidays for their parents in the next two months.

However, not everyone is eager to take advantage of the yearly discounts.

Some residents still consider tour group trips by local travel agencies to be a "tiresome marathon".

"Air-conditioned tour buses take us from one place to another and we are briefly released every few hours. I would rather not call this a nice trip, even if it costs less this time," said Yang Yizhong, 63, a retired State-owned corporation worker in Beijing.

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