Unveiling the secrets of the 2024 Chunyun through big data

February 19, 2024
Jie mian
One of China's most influential digital media outlets specializing in financial and business news.

On February 19th, the “Longest-ever Spring Festival Holiday” of 2024 recently concluded, setting a record of 2.293 billion cumulative cross-regional trips over the 8-day holiday period.

During these 8 days of the Spring Festival holiday, domestic tourism in China reached 474 million trips, representing a 34.3% year-on-year increase. The total expenditure by domestic tourists amounted to 632.687 billion yuan, with a 47.3% year-on-year growth. Compared to the same period in 2019, the growth rate was 7.7%.

These indicators indicate an unprecedentedly bustling situation during the 2024 Spring Festival holiday. Behind this surge, there are many fresh changes worth exploring.

Behind the Record-breaking 9 billion Trips

The press conference on the situation and arrangements of the 2024 Spring Festival travel rush revealed that the travel volume during Chunyun, which started on January 26th and ended on March 5th, will reach a historic high. It is predicted that approximately 9 billion trips will be made for travel, family visits, and leisure activities during the 40 days.

How significant is the scale of 9 billion people on the move? To provide a comparison, we reviewed the data of the total population movement during Chunyun over the past decade. Before the pandemic, the peak passenger flow during Chunyun occurred mainly in 2014 and 2019. In 2014, the total volume of passenger movement reached 3.6 billion trips, and in 2019, it reached 2.98 billion trips. Comparing with the data for this year’s Chunyun, the total population movement is approximately 2.5 times that of the peak period before the pandemic.

The rapid growth in passenger flows is due, in part, to the increased travel demand this year as the second Chunyun after the transition period of epidemic prevention and control, which has led to a more substantial release of travel demand compared to 2023. During the Spring Festival holiday, there was no travel low point, and instead, the daily passenger flow repeatedly reached new highs.

According to data, from the fourth day to the eighth day of the lunar month, the total cross-regional population movement exceeded 300 million people for five consecutive days. The highest single-day travel occurred on the peak return day of the sixth day of the lunar month, with a total population movement of 315 million people. Even on February 8th, the day before the Chinese New Year’s Eve, the total cross-regional population movement was only 270 million people.

Unprecedented Surge in Self-Driving Travel

This year’s Spring Festival travel rush has undergone structural changes, with self-driving travel accounting for 80% of the total, surpassing railways, highways, civil aviation, and water transportation. The scale of self-driving trips has reached a historic high.

Looking at the daily passenger flow and its proportion, the daily passenger volume of railways mostly ranges from 12 million to 16 million. According to China State Railway Group, the national railway has continuously set new records for daily passenger volume since the fifth day of the lunar month. However, the proportion of railway passenger flow in the total population movement does not exceed 6%.

The proportion of civil aviation is even lower. During the 8-day peak travel period, the daily passenger volume of civil aviation remained between 2.1 million and 2.5 million, accounting for less than 1% of the total population movement.

On the other hand, the number of people traveling by private cars on highways and non-operational small vehicles on national and provincial roads reached as high as 220 million to 260 million per day. The proportion of self-driving travel in the total population movement is not just the previously estimated 80% by the authorities. The proportion of self-driving travel can reach nearly 90% at its highest and no less than 83% at its lowest.

Comparing the number of self-driving travelers during the 2024 Spring Festival travel rush with the pre-pandemic period, the increase is generally over 40%. The most significant increase occurred on the eighth day of the lunar month, the final day of the Spring Festival holiday and the peak day for self-driving return trips. Data shows that the volume of “Non-commercial small vehicles on highways and national and provincial roads” increased by 95.4% compared to the same period in 2019, nearly doubling.

In terms of popular destinations for self-driving trips, according to Amap data, the top ten cities for intercity driving trips from February 9th to February 14th include four cities in the Pearl River Delta region, three cities in the Yangtze River Delta region, and two cities in the Chengdu-Chongqing region. Among them, Xi’an, Foshan, Suzhou, Chongqing, and Shanghai have all seen improved rankings compared to the same period last year, while Guangzhou and Chengdu continue to dominate the list as the top two popular destination cities.

As for the demographics of self-driving travelers, data from Ctrip car rental shows that people born in the 1980s and 1990s are still the main force of self-driving trips during the Spring Festival. However, the post-2000 generation has shown the most rapid growth, with their self-driving user base increasing by 80% more than other age groups this year. Leisure travel and family trips have become the main demands for self-driving travel among those born in the 1980s and 1990s, with a clear trend of “driving with family to travel for the Chinese New Year.” Popular destinations for parent-child self-driving trips include Haikou, Shanghai, and Kunming.

Domestic and Outbound Tourism Soar

According to data released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, during the 8-day Spring Festival holiday in 2024, there were a total of 474 million domestic tourist trips in China, a year-on-year increase of 34.3%. Compared to the same period in 2019, the growth rate was 19.0% on a comparable basis. The total expenditure of domestic tourists reached 632.687 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 47.3%, or 7.7% compared to the same period in 2019 on a comparable basis.

Looking at the national tourism consumption data during the Spring Festival holiday over the past five years, before the pandemic in 2019, the total number of tourists received nationwide was 415 million, generating tourism revenue of 513.9 billion yuan. In terms of per capita tourism expenditure, during the 2024 Spring Festival, the average expenditure per domestic tourist was 1,334.78 yuan, while during the 2019 Spring Festival, the average expenditure per domestic tourist was 1,238 yuan, indicating a significant increase in tourism spending.

In response to this, Xiao Peng, a researcher at the Big Data Research Institute of Qunar, analyzed that people’s traditional Spring Festival travel habits have changed due to the extended holiday period. The 8-day long holiday made “traveling” replace “returning home” as the main focus of the Spring Festival holiday.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism has not disclosed data on inbound and outbound tourist arrivals for several years. However, during the recent 2024 Spring Festival holiday, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism specifically mentioned “inbound tourist arrivals” and “outbound tourist arrivals” in its report. The data shows that there were approximately 6.83 million inbound and outbound tourist arrivals, with approximately 3.6 million outbound tourist arrivals and 3.23 million inbound tourist arrivals.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism stated that with the favorable policies of visa exemption, convenient customs clearance, and the resumption of air routes, inbound and outbound tourism has accelerated its recovery and development. Outbound tourism mainly consists of short-distance cross-border trips to China’s Hong Kong and Macau regions, as well as countries and regions such as Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia. Some travel agencies have already restored their “Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore” products to a level similar to that of the same period in 2019.

Regarding domestic tourism alone, the significant feature of this year’s Spring Festival was the significant interchange between the north and the south and the cross-regional trips from east to west. Since the start of the Spring Festival travel season, residents from northern China have been traveling south, while residents from southern China have been heading north for skiing and ice-related activities, becoming a new trend. Destinations in southern China such as Guangdong, Sichuan, Guangxi, Hunan, and Guizhou have been popular, while regions with abundant ice and snow resources such as Heilongjiang, Jilin, Xinjiang, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have organized ice and snow tourism festivals and introduced new ways of ice and snow tourism consumption.

It is worth mentioning that as a popular destination for winter escapes, Hainan experienced a significant increase in the number of tourists during the 2024 Spring Festival, with an overall year-on-year growth of over 30%. However, due to supply and demand issues, there was a shortage of flights from Sanya to other destinations during the peak return period, with even economy class tickets sold out and only a few high-class tickets remaining. The topic of “Sanya return flight tickets skyrocketing over ten thousand yuan” has dominated Weibo’s hot search list for several days.

Subsequently, under the coordinated scheduling of the Civil Aviation Administration, Hainan Holdings, and Hainan Airport, starting from February 16th, Air China added two routes from Sanya Airport to Beijing Capital and Chengdu Tianfu; China Southern Airlines added two routes to Guangzhou and Shenzhen; Hainan Airlines added a route to Changsha, with an average daily increase of 2,509 seats for arrivals and departures. With the increase in capacity, ticket prices gradually dropped from the high level of over 10,000 yuan to around 3,000 yuan.


Jie mian
One of China's most influential digital media outlets specializing in financial and business news.
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