Say goodbye to the rooster. This Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival which runs from February 15th to 21st, will ring in the Year of the Dog and millions of people in communities all around the world will be celebrating. Before festivities begin, people clean their homes really well to make them ready for celebrations. Then on the first day of the Lunar New Year, people will wear special clothes, hang red lanterns, eat copious amounts of food, exchange gifts and enjoy fireworks to ward off bad spirits. There is a tradition not to pick up a broom in case you sweep the good luck for the New Year out of the door!
Across Asia, schools and businesses will close during the first few days of the New Year so that everyone can spend time with their families. For many, this will be the only time this year to visit family.
In China, Lunar New Year marks the biggest travel rush on the planet. Major cities like Beijing and Shanghai are emptying. An estimated 15 million will leave Beijing; equivalent to the entire population of Sweden and Denmark combined! Roughly 3 billion single journeys by road, 390 million on trains, 65 million by plane and 45 million by sea. But expect higher fares as local carriers are forecasting a boost in profits with the government relaxing price controls on more routes. But people are increasingly travelling overseas to mark the occasion. About 7 million will travel abroad with Thailand, Japan and Indonesia being popular destinations. 70% will travel with tour groups.
Total retail spending is expected to reach nearly $143 billion dollars. Luxury brands are lining up for a slice of the pie. LV and Gucci are some of the companies tailoring products to the canine sign.
Red Packets Go Mobile
Technology is now having an impact on this festival due in part to China?s fast-changing society and economy. Hong bao is the tradition of giving out red envelopes stuffed with cash. However, China?s electronic payment transformation has shifted this practice online.
In 2015, technology giants Tencent and Alibaba began offering ?virtual? red envelopes. Since its introduction of the electronic hong bao, it has given the country?s 530 million mobile payment users a quicker way of fulfilling the holiday obligation.
During the first six days of the holiday in 2017, 46 billion e-hong baos were sent through the WeChat messaging and payment app; that?s the equivalent of 33 cash envelopes per person in China.
Alibaba, China?s biggest e-commerce provider, will give away nearly 100 million dollars through its Taobao platform during the CCTV?s spring festival gala watched by nearly 700 million viewers.
Getting Home Faster
Travelling home by train is synonymous with New Year. With 390 million people expected to travel by train, it can be a cramped and tiring affair with some train journeys taking more than a day on conventional trains. However China?s move into high-speed rail is rapidly changing that with some journey times cut to a quarter of the time taken on a regular train. The Government is planning to extend the network into the country?s less-developed west.
Hotel Rooms Empty
The mass movement of people does not equate to more guests for China?s hotels because people usually stay with family and friends over the holiday break thus hotel vacancy rates increase.
New Year occupancy rates since 2007 have averaged 51.5% compared to non-holiday average of 64.3%.
Boom Time for Casinos
If you fancy a flutter, Macao?s casinos predict new year?s spending to lift Q1 betting volumes by 20% on last year. MGM Resorts International just opened a new $3.3 billion resort on Macau?s Cotai Strip. But good luck finding a room with all major hotels fully booked.
Gold Gift Giving
Lunar New Year is not just a time for giving cash. Over the past decade, gold prices receive a boost from the holiday period with the precious metal recording its best performance during the months of January and February usually when Spring Festival begins.
Gold has risen 3.3% in January, just below the average for the month during the past 10 years. In 2017, 1,090 tons of gold was consumed in China with jewellery and other ornaments comprising about 60%.
BBQ Pork Prices
Known as Chun jie in Mandarin, dining is integral to Spring Festival with many families staying up on New Year ?s Eve making dumplings and other delicious foods. In Singapore, the Chinese community fest on traditional caramelised pork slices known as Bak-Kwa. For the past 10 years, ahead of the holiday, prices have increased. Bak-Kwa is either given as gifts or eaten as snacks during the holiday break.
Another New Year tradition involves tossing a Cantonese-style raw fish salad. Called ?lo hei? or ?yusheng? is a ritual of tossing up good fortune.
Starting the Year with a Bang
What would be a New Year without fireworks? Fireworks are lit to scare away evil spirits and bring good luck. Despite some parts of China curbing its use, 75,000 boxes are expected to be sold in Beijing alone. Good news for people who like fireworks however, according to BerkleyEarth.org, New Year?s Day is usually the most polluted day of the year as explosives emit smoke and chemicals into the skies of China.
With the government cracking down coal-fired heating, this winter Beijing has seen less smog with blue skies greeting its citizens.
From all of us at Systematrix and all our Global Business Units, we with you all good health, happiness, prosperity and success in the Year of the Dog.