Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit! The Lunar New Year begins each year on the second new Moon after the winter solstice, and lasts for a 15 day period. This year, on February 4, 2023, we welcome the Year of the Black Water Rabbit. In Chinese culture, the rabbit has the unique characteristic of waiting for an opportune moment and then leaping into action. More than any other zodiac animal, the rabbit symbolizes luck, so there is a lot to look forward to in this Lunar New Year!
Those born in this year's Chinese Zodiac animal are said to be earnest and talented at many things. Water Rabbits are also considered to be affectionate, excel at forming close relationships, and seek out peace and tranquility, among other rabbit-like traits. “Rabbits are known to be incredibly witty, outgoing, well-spoken, creative, empathetic, thoughtful and meditative; the water element of 2023 means this year will bring even more introspection, peace and hope.” Our world right now could benefit from more Rabbit-like traits!
Lunar New Year Travel and Chinese New Year Celebrations
As we hop into the Year of the Water Rabbit, the water element gives us ease and mobility, and we can already see more TRAVEL on the horizon! While the Zodiac is one of the most famous parts of the Chinese New Year, this major holiday, also known as the Spring Festival, has over 3,000 years of history with plenty of traditions to discover. One of the traditions, known as “chun yun,” is the world's largest annual migration with millions of people from all over the world returning to their hometowns in Asian countries to visit family for the Lunar New Year. This annual migration is a 40-day period of travel while traditional New Year celebrations are observed throughout the 15 days, after the Lunar New Year begins, culminating in the Lantern Festival.
Unfortunately, the past three years, due to the COVID19 pandemic, resulted in a decrease of travel during this annual migration by 70%. While China's 1.4 billion residents have been protected by the strict quarantine regulations for travelers coming into the country, they also have been limited from gathering and traveling across land and sea to see loved ones.
Fortunately, the January 8th reopening of unrestricted international and domestic travel to China coincided perfectly with the beginning of the 2023 Lunar New Year and marked a historical moment in China's COVID pandemic history, while also initiating "chun yun", the 40-day period of Lunar New Year travel. This re-opening is a blessing for families and loved ones to come together to celebrate centuries-old traditions that mark the Lunar New Year, including the exchange of “red packets,” to bestow good fortune and happiness.
Travel to China in the Year Ahead
With the onset of the Chinese New Year, we have seen many Chinese tourist visiting nearby countries, and in fact, travel in Southeast Asia has reported to increase by 1026% since this same period last year, and we can expect to see more travel on the horizon for outbound travel. However, inbound leisure travel to China is not open yet.
According to many reports, including CNN Travel, while China has dropped quarantine requirements for international arrivals, borders remain closed to foreigners not visiting for business, educational, or family purposes. Issuing travel visas is part of the reopening plan, but an official date for when the Chinese Government will begin to do so has not yet been announced. International flight schedules will also need to increase, which will aid in lowering the purchase-prohibitive costs of flying.
Pre-pandemic, China was one of the world's leading tourism destinations, welcoming over 65 million tourists. We don’t expect this to return to this level for quite some time. While inbound travel is important to China and other Asian countries, it is estimated that it could take over a year, for these countries and governments negatively impacted by COVID to rebuild and expand resources for leisure travel.
As we hop into the Year of the Rabbit, and its soft and fluffy energy, we invite you to join our mailing list to stay informed about the prospects for culturally immersive travel to China in the year ahead!