For a second straight year, Chinese New Year celebrations are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — which can have implications for the luxury business.
Ahead of last year’s festivities, the full scope of the COVID-19 threat was still unknown. Now, mainland China has been living with coronavirus restrictions for more than a year and while much of the country has seemingly returned to normal life, it continues to face surges of the virus.
Then and now
The travel period surrounding Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival, or Chunyun, is known as the largest annual human migration.
Chunyun typically begins about two weeks before the New Year and lasts around 40 days. According to the Chinese government, 415 million people traveled during the spring festival in 2019, up 7.6 percent from 2018.
The Chinese government placed Wuhan under lockdown on Jan. 23, two days before the New Year. Many cities canceled their celebrations for the start of the Year of the Rat, and the government extended the holiday period in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In the months following, China implemented lockdowns, travel restrictions, stringent testing and contract tracing and other measures to successfully control the virus.
While COVID-19 spread to become a global pandemic, life in China has returned to normal in many ways with restrictions in place to avoid more widespread lockdowns. With many countries still struggling to manage the virus throughout the year, China became the only major economy to report growth in 2020 (see story).
With the Year of the Ox set to begin on Feb. 12, however, cases of the coronavirus are climbing in China once again.
Holiday travel has not been banned, but the government is discouraging movement during Chunyun while cities are ramping up testing requirements or imposing lockdowns.
“Many people will choose to not go back to their hometown for the holiday,” said Amrita Banta, managing director at Agility Research & Strategy, Singapore. “Large-sized gatherings are not encouraged, including dining, entertainment, performances.
“However, this is not a lockdown; things are open,” she said. “It still changes the way the Chinese traditionally celebrate in face-to-face gatherings for the Spring Festival, which are now going to more virtual this year.”
Despite the subdued celebrations, luxury hotel brands in China are still hoping to capitalize on domestic travel with international trips still restricted.