A grassland view in Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]
As the first post-pandemic summer vacation has arrived, new experiences have sprung up for the Chinese travelers who are straining at the leash to travel.
Although the Ministry of Culture and Tourism allowed trans-provincial group tours after COVID-19 was brought under control in China on July 14 last year, the summer travel market didn't rebound as much as expected due to various factors.
Travelers' concerns toward sporadic cases of the virus, along with strict, and sometimes, complex pandemic control measures, such as reduced capacities at scenic spots and precautionary restrictions on student travelers, saw demand fall.
As the domestic situation continued to improve, and the administration of over 1.65 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines across the Chinese mainland as of July 25, the tourism market had been showing all the signs of a return to normal service.
However, a resurgence of COVID-19 cases has put somewhat of a dampener on that enthusiasm.
The number of local infections in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has grown to over 200 people since July 31 and sporadic related cases have been recorded in Anhui, Guangdong, Hunan, Liaoning and Sichuan provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and the country's capital, Beijing.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has urged people to strengthen personal protection measures during their travels.
Major online travel agencies, including Trip.com, the country's largest online travel group, have also offered full refunds for trips booked for the period of July 26 to Aug 11 to destinations that are currently rated medium- and high-risk.
So far, there have been no reports of mass cancellations to regions with lower risk areas.
The number of traveler visits to domestic destinations for July and August was expected to reach 120 million, basically reaching the level of that in 2019, according to forecasts by online travel agency Tongcheng-Elong.
The number of people traveling by train was set to rise by 60 percent compared with the same period last year, according to the agency.
The public's enthusiasm and desire to travel after a restrictive 18 months is evident from the trans-provincial tour bookings made for the summer season (July 1-Aug 31) through Trip.com.
The figure has surged more than 400 percent over last summer, Trip.com reports.
College students' per capita spending on summer trips has reached about 2,500 yuan ($386), up 42 percent year-on-year and many are showing a preference for sites that beat the summer heat, according to the Shanghai agency.
A face-lift of Labrang Monastery in Gansu province has been completed. [Photo/Xinhua]
Family tours, especially those featuring educational elements, stood out, with relevant flight orders reaching about 60 percent via Trip.com, 8 percentage points higher when compared with the same period in 2019.
Educational tours increased over 650 percent year-on-year, with online searches for them more than doubling. Bookings for such excursions account for 68 percent of Tongcheng-Elong's family orders for the summer so far.
Parents' focus on education for their children is the reason for their popularity, says a family summer tours report from Qunar, a Beijing-based online travel agency.
Beijing, Shanghai, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Gansu province's Dunhuang and Shaanxi province's capital Xi'an are among the most popular destinations for family travelers.
Group tours are smaller than before, catering more to the demands of travelers for services of better quality, while an increasing number of family travelers have opted for self-drive recreational and sport utility vehicles during their trips, says Li Qian, learning tour business director with Trip.com.
Tour suppliers have covered history, humanity, exploration, astronomy, science and themed camping sites, intended to entertain children aged between 4 and 16.
Space exploration tours in Xichang, Sichuan province, Yungang Grottoes history and art appreciation in Shanxi province, and national geography study in Shandong are very popular at the moment.
Overall spending on family tours rose 463 percent as compared with the 2020 summer, and average spending rose 84 percent, Trip.com shows.
Some high-end tours have been well received by the market.
The Beijing-based tourism website Qyer has invited experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Dunhuang Academy to guide young travelers during trips to China's Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou province or the Mogao Caves in Gansu.
Such educational tours are a fairly recent addition industry, and products of inconsistent quality have flooded the market.
However, as parents pay more attention to the diversity, individuality and quality of their children's travel experiences, Zhang Lu, a co-founder of Qyer believes that only services with the highest standards will survive in the long run.