Travel galore – how Labour Day is celebrated in China

Labour Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, is approaching on May 1 with many Chinese people preparing to travel during the national holiday.

But what actually is Labour Day and how do people celebrate it?

The history of Labour Day

The celebration of Labour Day in China can be traced back to 1918. Revolutionary intellectuals in Shanghai, Suzhou, and other cities distributed leaflets introducing Labour Day to the public as a way to campaign for “labour rights” and “labour dignity”. In 1920, workers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou held large parades to fight for an eight-hour working day.  

Labour Day officially became a national holiday in 1949 as an occasion to thank China’s workers. Every year on May 1, the government commends workers who have made outstanding contributions to the country.

Many brands also share Labour Day posters to commemorate the occasion and show their respect to workers. Last year’s campaigns were dominated by praise for key workers and those involved in the struggle against COVID-19.

Celebrating Labour Day

The Labour Day holiday varies in length depending on when in the week it falls. In 2020 and 2021, it has been a five-day holiday, in part to give people an opportunity to travel and boost the tourism industry. However, these national holiday days must be ‘made up’ on weekends surrounding the holiday. This year, many workers are having to work two weekend days to compensate, which is causing large-scale resentment on social media.

Chinese people usually take advantage of the holiday to travel and visit relatives, especially due to the pleasant spring weather. Yet, the large-scale movement of people means that crowds at tourist destinations are common and transportation is often congested.

In the lead up to the festival, public workers often leave flower arrangements in public spaces, and parades and flag-raising ceremonies are also common.

Travel during Labour Day 2021

With China largely having controlled COVID-19, many people are looking to travel domestically during Labour Day.

According to Little Pig B&B, the bookings for Labour Day holidays on the platform have increased by 1.6 times compared with Qingming Festival, which took place earlier this month. This represents an increase of almost 180% compared with 2019.

With international travel still being off the cards, demand for domestic travel has surged and prices of B&Bs in popular travel destinations have risen significantly, by 13% from the same period in 2019. Young consumers are dominating travel reservations with post-90s and post-00s accounting for 36.2% and 38.4% of bookings, respectively. 

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