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Caught in China, shoppers in Hainan are spending thousands and thousands on luxurious items

People wear masks as they walk down a street in Wuhan, Hubei province on October 3, 2021, where a yellow high temperature warning was issued when the high reached 98.6 Fahrenheit.

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BEIJING – Chinese consumers opened their wallets to shop during the weeklong National Day holidays that ended Thursday, despite travel numbers down year-on-year.

According to state media, sales at nine duty-free shops in the southern island province of Hainan from October 1-6 were nearly 1.64 billion yuan ($ 252.3 million). That meant a 75% increase over the same period in 2020 and more than four times more – or a 359% increase – compared to the same period in 2019, the report said.

Hainan has become a popular destination for Chinese shoppers who traveled overseas to purchase luxury goods prior to the pandemic.

The pandemic still weighed on this year's national holiday, also known as China's "Golden Week". It has been a popular time to travel in the past as it is one of two long public holidays in a country where workers have few personal vacation days.

Beijing's “zero tolerance” policy on fighting the pandemic, however, means that strict contact tracing and banning measures can restrict travel in the short term – as reportedly happened to tourists in Xinjiang this week. Anecdotally, some schools in Beijing advised students and teachers not to leave the capital for the holidays.

Tourism spending of 389.1 billion yuan from October 1-7 was only about 60% of what it was in 2019, and 4.7% less than the same period in 2020, according to China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

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Tourist trips hit 515 million during the week-long vacation this year – about 70% of 2019 levels and 1.5% less than 2020, the ministry said.

Chinese travel booking website said Beijing has overtaken Shanghai as the most popular travel destination thanks to the newly opened Universal Studios Resort on the outskirts of the capital.

According to, nationwide car rental bookings during the holidays this year increased 43% compared to the same holiday season in 2019. According to the report, the average one-way ticket price increased 7% year over year to 821 yuan.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.

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