This week is “Golden Week,” the 7-day holiday around October 1, which is China’s National Day. Golden Week was implemented in year 2000, and is one of the busiest travel seasons for mainland Chinese tourists. This week, a whopping 589 million Chinese citizens will be traveling in mainland China, with another 6 million going abroad. This translates into about US$70 billion in tourism-related income, which is mind blowing.
According to Xinhua Net (article in Chinese), 31% of Chinese tourist pack instant ramen noodles when traveling. Another 58% of tourists might not pack them, but will buy them once they are at their destination. The numbers came from a recent study by AliTrip, Alibaba’s travel booking website. That is a mind-boggling high percentage—basically 1 in 3 Chinese tourist pack their own ramen, and more than half would buy it after they’ve arrived.
Here is a picture that went viral in Hong Kong last year, where a few Chinese “aunties” were eating their own ramen noodles in front of a Gucci store in Florence, Italy.
Chinese tourists tend to give off a stereotype of being avid shoppers and photo-takers. In 2014, only only 5% of Chinese citizens hold a passport, so one can assume that only those who are higher on the social ladder can afford to travel. An episode of Aljazeera’s 101 East supports this hypothesis. So why are Chinese tourists so obsessed with instant ramen noodles? The same AliTrip study revealed the top there reasons:
- They are not used to local food
- It saves them time from an otherwise busy itinerary
- Noodles are cheap
To be honest, I can kind of relate to all of those reasons. Growing up in Hong Kong largely affected the kind of food I enjoy; I almost always have to eat a hot meal, even for breakfast. When traveling in Europe, it’s not uncommon to see hotels offering only continental breakfast, and I sometimes find myself yearning for something more substantial. I’m all for experiencing local cultures, but I have to admit sometimes a cup of instant noodles just hits the spot.
On a side note, I think that also helps explain why Cathay Pacific’s Noodle Bar in their lounges have been so popular. It’s the same reason I am grateful for airport lounges that offer instant noodles among an otherwise all-cold food spread.
Are you surprised by these numbers? Do you have a go-to snack that you always pack for your trip?