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Bonus holidays, free tolls and tickets galore: how Hangzhou residents are being lured out of town for G20

Residents of Hangzhou are about to set off on vacation or stock up on groceries as businesses shut down in the eastern Chinese city that is hosting the G20 world leaders summit next month.

Authorities in the city, which is the capital of Zhejiang province, have declared a week-long holiday starting on Thursday for the summit and Hangzhou residents will be offered free admission to tourist attractions in nearby cities.

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Prices for plane tickets from Hangzhou have soared due to rising demand for outbound travel next week.

Wang Gang, who lives in the inner-city Shangcheng district, said he was stockpiling food and planning trips outside the city during the holidays due to the traffic controls and other measures as security had been tightened in and around the city.

But he was delighted to have an extra week’s holiday.

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“I’ll take the family to a nearby city on Saturday as many attractions are free for Hangzhou residents, as are toll roads within the province,” he said.

He has also put food by for when they are in town.

“I have prepared 50 to 60 dumplings and other instant food which should be enough for two to three days,” Wang said.

Some restaurants in Hangzhou have already closed, while cafes at West Lake are selling only drinks and desserts but no food as stricter security checks have disrupted deliveries to the scenic area.

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Traffic controls will tighten further from this Sunday until September 6 as vehicles will only be allowed on the roads on alternate days when an odd-even number plate system is in place.

Wu Shizhun, who works for a start-up incubator in Hangzhou, said he would head to Hong Kong via Shenzhen for his vacation.

A one-way plane ticket from Hangzhou to Shenzhen, which normally cost about 400 yuan (HK$466), doubled to 800 yuan last week, Wu said.

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Instead he would travel by train to Shenzhen, which cost 400 yuan but took eight hours, he said.

“I also factored in security checks at the airport and possible flight delays, so the train trip may not take much longer than the flight,” he said.

As it was a special holiday only for Hangzhou residents, hotels and other expenses in other cities were much cheaper than peak seasons such as the National Day holidays, Wu said.

Yan Haifeng, the chief operating officer of an online travel agency Tuniu, said the one-week vacation had boosted demand for package tours and air tickets to countries within six hours’ flying time from Hangzhou.

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“The demand from tourists from Hangzhou during that week is huge. Most outbound tours to Japan, South Korea and Thailand have already sold out,” Yan said.

While the bonus holiday is good news for the city’s travel agents and residents, other business owners are far from pleased.

Mr Gong, a taxi driver, said he expected to be out of pocket because of the traffic controls and security checks during G20.

“Taxis are the major target at security check points as we carry mainly visitors to Hangzhou. It takes more time and costs passenger more money for each ride,” he said.

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“We are annoyed but not dare to speak out as we know the police will enforce security stringently.”

Stricter controls have also delayed parcel deliveries. Yang Xin, who runs an online pharmacy in Hangzhou, said all parcels had to pass careful inspection for the past month.

“We need to explain this to customers, but some cancelled their orders and asked for a refund,” she said.

Most of Yang’s staff will take the week-long holiday, although a few will remain on duty as their customers’ businesses in other cities will continue as normal.