Business travel over Chinese New Year: All you need to know

by Luz Prada | April 24, 2020
Chinese dragon in a Chinese New Year parade

There is no doubt that as a business grows, the number of cultures that interact with each other grows as well. Respect and understanding of other cultures are not only a basic duty of companies and employees, but also an opportunity to expand market opportunities and reach new clients around the globe. 

Business practices such as multilingual marketing, product localization, or adapting to clients’ cultural traditions shows a company’s commitment to connect with everyone and to become more conscious of the world they operate in. 

Doing business with China and Asia?

With business travel as a growing trend for companies and relations with Asia becoming essential for most western organizations, Asia is one of the most common business travel destinations. Hong Kong, as a matter of fact, ranks number 1 as the main business hub and business travel destination in the world.

If you are planning a business trip to China or Asia over the months of January to March, there’s some things you should know in order to save time and money. Chinese New Year is one of the largest events on the planet and the world's largest human migration. With more than 400 million people moving across China, the whole country stops for a couple of weeks around the new year’s date, which varies between January and February every year.

Travelling during the Chinese New Year is probably not the most ideal period to do so. However, if you’re thinking of taking a business trip to China or any other Asian country over those dates, there are a few things you should bear in mind. 

city of Shanghai at night in China

Travelling over Chinese New Year is harder and more expensive

Whether you’re travelling to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Beijing, you should be aware that most travel routes will be filled to the top, including air, train and road connections

Bus stations will be packed with families that will take them to reach their hometowns. Day after day, tickets will be sold out and it will be impossible to even get into a terminal. Flights will also be sold out for most destinations and the check-in lines at all airports will be way longer than usual. 

On top of that, fares will still be substantially higher than usual and, although flight frequencies and routes are expanded, it is usually not enough. Private transportation will be reduced, but probably one of the most reliable ways to move around the country. 

If you’re travelling to Asia around the Chinese New Year, make sure you book everything a few months in advance, including accommodation and transportation. 

Business meetings over the Chinese New Year

While most restaurants and large shopping areas will remain open, most businesses will close for at least a week and most likely, for two or even three weeks. For most employees, this is the only chance they have to visit their families and spend some quality time with them. 

Expect offices to be closed and companies putting all commercial activity to a standstill for a couple of weeks before or after the new year. All education, from preschool to universities, is also stopped. 

If you’ve arranged business meetings over the Chinese New Year, make sure to confirm with your business partners that they are still on and do your best to acknowledge the efforts that were probably made for the meeting to take place despite the festivities. 

Chinese red paper lanterns

Expect big crowds everywhere

As mentioned above, the Chinese New Year is the world’s largest human migration. While a lot of people travel to their hometowns to spend time with their families, there is a substantial number of people that travel to the cities to visit their relatives as well. Others decide to take the holidays to travel around the country and do some sightseeing since these are the only holidays they will have over the year. 

Considering that Beijing and Shanghai make up a total of 45 million people under normal circumstances, can you picture what most of these people travelling in and out of these cities at the same time feels like? The months of January and February are months of big crowds everywhere you go. Public transportation, landmarks, temples, roads, parks, shopping malls, and markets will all be filled with locals and tourists trying to enjoy their holidays, reach their homes or do some last-minute new year shopping. 

Chinese New Year does not only affect China

With the Han Chinese being the largest ethnic group in the world and the number of ethnically Chinese people living overseas estimated at 50 million, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Chinese New Year celebrations and holidays trespass Chinese borders. Most neighboring countries like Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand or Singapore actively celebrate the festivities and, although not as intense as in mainland China, the new year affects most business activities. 

If you’re travelling to an Asian business hub such as Singapore or Kuala Lumpur over the Chinese New Year, you should take these recommendations into account as well. Despite counting with a wide array of ethnicities and a rich cultural diversity, these countries and cities are predominantly ethnically Chinese. 

Whether you do business directly with China or any South East Asian country, communicating with your business partners about how the new year will affect business activity will save you time and money.