18th April 2024 – (Beijing) As China gears up for the upcoming May Day holidays, a wave of discontent is sweeping through the nation, centred on the government’s holiday scheduling practices. On the surface, the promise of extended breaks paints a picture of leisure and relaxation. However, the reality is often a single day off masked by the ‘make-up’ days that follow, tethering workers to their desks when they should be resting.

The issue has sparked debate among citizens and observers, many of whom are calling for a revision of the current system. They argue that the policy, which ostensibly creates longer holidays by shifting workdays around, fails to serve its intended purpose of providing genuine rest and instead adds to the populace’s stress levels.

The structure of China’s public holiday system often involves additional workdays placed either before or after the official holidays to extend the break. While this arrangement promises a block of leisure time, it requires citizens to work extended weeks around these breaks, disrupting life rhythms and causing exhaustion. This approach contrasts starkly with the uninterrupted weekends typically enjoyed in many other countries.

The dissatisfaction was palpable during the Ching Ming Festival holiday earlier in April, where the arrangement effectively created a six-day workweek. This pattern is set to repeat for the May Day holiday, with citizens facing another extended work period post-holiday. The frustration among the public is growing, with many taking to social media to voice their grievances. The sentiment was echoed by Chinese singer Na Ying back in 2013, criticizing the disruptive nature of such adjustments and their impact on children and families.

A poll conducted by China Newsweek on Weibo saw the majority of respondents favouring longer holidays without the burden of make-up days. This preference underscores a widespread desire for a more straightforward, less convoluted holiday schedule that does not detract from the restorative purpose of a break.

Observers suggest that the government should consider the public’s feedback and explore ways to reform the holiday system. Suggestions include the elimination of make-up days and the introduction of a more transparent and simplified schedule that truly respects the workers’ need for rest and recuperation.

While the make-up day system is designed to boost consumption by creating longer holiday periods, it raises questions about its economic efficacy. Peng Han, a chief analyst at Travel Daily, points out that the system does not increase the actual number of holiday days but merely rearranges them, leading to a temporary spike in consumption that may not be sustainable.

In the long run, a reformed holiday system that offers genuine breaks without subsequent make-up days could foster a more relaxed, productive workforce. This approach could enhance overall consumption more effectively by allowing citizens to spend leisurely without the looming burden of extra workdays.

As China fine-tunes its public holiday system, the upcoming May Day holiday is poised to unleash a significant tourism boom, particularly for destinations like Hong Kong. The expected influx of tourists could play a crucial role in revitalizing the local economy and underscore the broader impacts of national holiday policies on regional tourism dynamics.

Hong Kong, with its unique blend of Eastern and Western influences, remains a top draw for mainland Chinese travelers, especially during extended public holidays. This year, with the May Day holiday stretching from 1st to 5th May, travel agencies and hospitality businesses are gearing up for a substantial increase in visitors. The anticipation is not just based on optimistic speculation but is backed by booking trends indicating a significant uptick in travel arrangements for the period.

Travel platforms like Trip.com have reported a noticeable surge in domestic airfare bookings for the holiday, with an increase of 21% compared to last year, and a staggering 41% rise over the figures from 2019. Similarly, hotel bookings in smaller, county-level cities on platforms like Ctrip have risen by 68% year on year, while ticket purchases for scenic areas in these regions have soared by 151%. These statistics not only highlight the pent-up demand for travel post-pandemic but also illustrate the potent economic impact of well-timed public holidays on the tourism sector.

For Hong Kong, the timing of the May Day holiday could not be more opportune. As the city seeks to consolidate its recovery from the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, the influx of tourists could inject much-needed vitality into various sectors, from retail and hospitality to entertainment and services. The local government and businesses are keenly aware of this potential, with measures in place to ensure that the city is ready to welcome and captivate visitors.

Moreover, Hong Kong’s appeal as a travel destination is multifaceted. Its reputation for safety, accessibility, and a plethora of dining and shopping options makes it an attractive choice for short getaways. The city’s ability to offer a rich cultural experience, coupled with the convenience of proximity, allows it to stand out in a competitive tourism market.