China braces for 2.9 billion trips during Lunar New Year

BEIJING: Chinese are packing train and bus stations as the peak travel season kicks into high gear this weekend with hundreds of millions of people going home for Spring Festival celebrations — or head for vacation destinations.

Chinese travelers are expected to make 2.9 billion trips during the 40-day period between January 21 and March 3, with the majority of those trips falling in the weeks around the February 8 Lunar New Year, the Ministry of Transport said.

"I have my parents back in my hometown and I must go back and have the family reunion," said Ma Xijie, a migrant worker from Sichuan province who was travelling back home by train with his son and wife.

"It's great to have the whole family sit down and enjoy a family dinner together. I have been working far from home with my kid for a whole year," he said.

At the Beijing railway station, student Ren Chongyuan from Shandong province said it was a bit easier to buy tickets this year, but he still had to book two months in advance.

This year's travel crush — considered the largest annual human migration — may be relatively less severe due to a lackluster economy.

In coastal Zhejiang province near Shanghai, officials expect a 4.4 percent drop in passenger traffic as jobs dry up and migrant laborers pack up early to head to their family homes in China's hinterlands well before the Lunar New Year.

By comparison, Chinese made 3.6 billion trips during the same holiday period in 2014.