We just saw the Lunar New Year season passed by. For Australia, Lunar New Year brings annual tourism booms, boosting the education sectors, kicking start the financial figures of the 1st quarters. It also brings businesses and investments from China’s HNWIs to local projects and assets, provided that these wealthy Chinese won’t stay at home.

This New Year of Rat, for local Chinese communities, is not the best one though. Now, let us look into several important perspectives of this unusual debut.

Still the Largest Annual Human Migration On Planet Earth

2

Chinese travelers are inundating train stations and airports on 17 January to take part in the world’s biggest annual human migration. This nationwide movement happens every year ahead of the Lunar New Year as part of the Spring Festival. According to China’s transport ministry, around 3 billion trips will be made during the rush.

China is celebrating the Lunar New Year Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, for 40 days running from 10 January to 18 February, with Lunar New Year’s Day itself falling on 25 January 2020.

The mass migration stems from citizens travelling home, both within China and from all over the world, to spend time with family during the festival. For migrant workers who live abroad, Lunar New Year is often the only time during the year when they are able to spend time with their families.

The travel rush over the break is known as ‘Chunyun’; in 2019, an estimated 2.9 billion trips were taken, a 0.8 per cent rise over year 2018. This year’s estimated number of trips represents a potential 3 per cent rise year-on-year.

Festivities often focus around food and feasting, culminating in the traditional Nian Ye Fan reunion dinner, which takes place on the eve of Spring Festival. It usually includes poultry, dumplings, fish dishes, spring rolls, noodles and vegetable taro cakes. 

Each year is assigned a spirit animal from the Chinese zodiac: 2020 marks the Year of the Rat, the first of the repeating 12-year cycle of animals.

China’s transport infrastructure has had a recent boost, which will help some of those returning home. It has slashed the journey time from three hours to just 47 minutes. The Jing-Zhang high-speed railway also stops at Yanqing, another host city, along with seven other stations, including Badaling Chang Cheng, home to one of the Great Wall of China’s most popular sections. — edited from Independent.co.uk

Travel and Buy Among the Deadly Virus

3

During the Chunyun migration, a 40-day travel period that runs from January 10 to February 18, workers return home, making it also the busiest period for rail and air travel. Around 440 million passengers are expected to travel by rail this year, a year-on-year increase of 32.6 million, or 8 per cent, according to estimates by the National Railway Administration.

China’s aviation authority predicts that civil aviation passenger traffic will hit 79 million, up 8.4 per cent compared to last year, which would be a record high.

For many years, China’s fast economic growth relied on migrant workers, the cheap labour force that took jobs far away from home. The National Bureau of Statistics said that China had 288.36 million migrant workers at the end of 2018, a rise of 0.6 per cent from 2017.

With many having been separated from their children, the family reunion aspect of the holiday is reinforced by a big family dinner which this year took place on Friday, similar to a Thanksgiving dinner, although instead of turkey, pork dumplings and other dishes including fish take center stage.

Last year, national retail and catering revenues rose just 8.5 per cent compared to 10.2 per cent in 2018. The growth rate for tourism revenue also dropped to 8.2 per cent in 2019 from 12.1 per cent in 2018, with total spending last year hitting 513.9 billion yuan (AU$110 billion) during the holiday period.

And even before the coronavirus outbreak, the growth of box office revenues also slowed for a second consecutive year in 2019, with the total of 64.2 billion yuan (US$9.3 billion) up just 5.4 per cent from a year earlier.—edited from South China Morning Post

But China’s Wuhan coronavirus outbreak couldn’t come at a worse time.

From January 10 to February 18, for 40 days, China is celebrating the Lunar New Year Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year. Trains, planes, roads, and ferries are filled to the brim as people journey home to be with their families.

The 2019-nCoV virus was first noticed in a meat market in Wuhan, China, which sold animal products like cats and bats, but it has spread to Beijing and Shenzhen, as well as South Korea, the US, Thailand, and Japan, and airports are screening passengers for the virus.

travelers are wearing masks to try and avoid catching it, but one of the best ways to avoid the virus is to stay away from public places. Yet that’s difficult in China during the holiday, especially as this new year overlaps with university students’ winter break. —edited from businessinsider.com.au

Holiday Extended

1

China’s State Council announced on 27 January that the Lunar New Year holiday will be extended to February 2 across the country; the holiday week was originally from January 24 to January 30. 

Meanwhile, Shanghai and Zhejiang Province has just announced that all enterprises will remain closed till February 9. The move has been expected as government and healthcare authorities double down on efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak by restricting public movement and large gatherings.

Postponing the end of the holiday from Friday to Sunday means people are expected to resume work starting Monday, February 3. Nonetheless, various businesses have directed their employees to work from home if they show signs of feeling unwell, or if they are returning from cities that are subject to transport restrictions or lock-down, or if they have had interaction with friends / family / relatives traveling from affected areas.

HR departments are advised to monitor for notifications from local governments regarding the implementation of city-wise policies or if any areas have to be quarantined. Open communication with all employees is also crucial to avoid any situation that promotes confusion or panic. Hygiene measures should ideally be stepped up.

Employees will be able to seek compensatory leave as per the country’s labor law if they have lost vacation days due to the prevention of the epidemic and performing other control duties. Similarly, wages and salaries for lapsed or unused holidays will be guaranteed as per respective labor policies.

Meanwhile in China, the start of the spring semester for colleges, schools, and kindergartens has been suspended. Separate notices will be issued by the Education Department on when institutions will reopen.—edited from China Briefing

PWC: Lunar New Year 2020 No Honey Moon for Australia

5

The virus from China hits not only tourism economy but also education and relevant supply chain players in Australia. It is “bad news on bad news” for the Australian economy, with warnings it could hit up to 20,000 jobs across small business and the university sector as Chinese tourists and students stay home.

As the number of deaths from the virus grows above 100, there are fears it could wipe $2.3 billion from an already soft Australian economy, which is still struggling with the drought and bushfires.

Asian Group of students sharing with the ideas for working on garden the campus lawn

Asian Group of students sharing with the ideas for working on garden the campus lawn

China is Australia’s largest source of foreign tourists, and more than 200,000 China Chinese are fee-paying students in the Australian universities, making up a significant proportion of the overall student population. University of NSW on Monday confirmed one of its students had the coronavirus after she arrived from Wuhan.

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), originally done to estimate what would happen to the domestic economy if China restricted the number of its citizens who could visit or study in Australia, points to long-run ramifications for several sectors.

That research found that over a year, Australia’s GDP would fall by $2.3 billion while 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs would disappear as the $9.2 billion spent annually by Chinese tourists and students would be gone. PwC Australia chief economist Jeremy Thorpe said for tourist areas already affected by this season’s bushfires, the impact would be noticeable.

6

Chinese tourist arrivals fell by 9 per cent in the months of the SARS virus through late 2002 and early 2003, while they dropped by 12 per cent in the immediate wake of the global financial crisis in 2008. On both occasions, tourist numbers recovered relatively quickly. At the time, Australian tourism operators were more dependent on visitors from other countries but since then China has become the nation’s main tourist source.

The university sector would also face issues if students, due for the start of semester at many institutions next month, were unable to return for their studies. “We’ve had a soft economy, the drought, the bushfires and now this virus. It’s bad news on top of bad news,” he said.

“The small business sector, which makes up a large part of the tourism sector, and the universities are the most exposed from this going on.” Thorpe said it would be too early to determine a possible impact to the budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has already flagged the government expects a hit to this financial year’s surplus, with at least $500 million to be spent on assistance to bushfire-affected communities. That was before the coronavirus outbreak. Economists expect the impact of the bushfires to show up in the March- and June-quarter national accounts. Already some retailers have reported sharp falls in sales through the pivotal Christmas-Boxing Day period.

On both occasions, tourist numbers recovered relatively quickly. At the time, Australian tourism operators were more dependent on visitors from other countries but since then China has become the nation’s main tourist source.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said while the number of Chinese visitors was likely to fall because of the virus, more Australians might decide to take their holidays at home in what would deliver a small boost to local operators.

Mr. James was doubtful there would be a significant impact on exports, noting that during the SARS outbreak the biggest impact was on the movement of people rather than goods. But he did think it could weigh on consumer confidence, potentially compounding uncertainty across the country after months of bushfires.

The Reserve Bank board meets next week, with markets putting the chance of a rate cut at one in five. That pricing was before the extent of the coronavirus outbreak was known. However, the RBA previously has been hesitant to change monetary policy settings due to a disease. In 2003 during the SARS outbreak, it noted the virus and its potential impact on the Australian tourism sector but kept interest rates steady.—edited from Brisbane Times

7

On 29 January, Australia’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity became the first lab outside of China to re-create coronavirus, and this breakthrough would boost the development of a vaccine for the not-yet infected people around the world. Well, although we are sorry to miss out this Lunar New Year boom, there is hope in distress. 

Edited by Joreal Qian