Nighttime offers profitable opportunities in China

About 60 per cent of consumption in China takes place at night, according to a report on urban residents' spending habits,


Visitors tour downtown Changsha, Hunan province, after sunset. CHEN ZHENHAI/XINHUA

October 4, 2022

BEIJING – More policies push to meet appetites for evening consumption

Be it watching the Peking Opera Farewell My Concubine at Dashila in the nation’s capital, having traditional Beijing snacks across the street, or camping on Shanghai’s bustling Nanjing Road, the nighttime economy is taking off in cities across the nation. The market scale is estimated to be over 40 trillion yuan ($5.7 trillion) this year.

As the COVID-19 resurgence is being contained in most Chinese cities, local governments are making the decision to promote business and consumption at night in a bid to capture opportunities at sundown.

The municipal government of Beijing decided to issue 100 million yuan worth of consumption coupons and designed up to 10 nighttime traveling routes to boost the capital’s nighttime economy, the Workers’ Daily reported. More than 20 key business areas and about 10,000 brands take part in various night activities extended through November, the report added.

In East China’s Shanghai, ten iconic scenic spots across the city are also embracing the nighttime economy. As a city built on fashion and innovation, Shanghai is ready to add more hustle and bustle to its evening entertainment repertoire.

In Chongqing, more than 200 featured activities online and offline were held so far this year, making it a sleepless city, the Economy &Nation Weekly under the Xinhua News Agency reported.

In Xi’an of Shaanxi province, consumption of culture and tourism at night is expected to create new growth opportunities, and the provincial capital has allocated several tourism and consumption areas for the nighttime economy including the Xi’an Grand Tang pedestrian street and the City Wall, Shaanxi Daily reported.

About 60 percent of consumption in China takes place at night, according to a report on urban residents’ spending habits by the Ministry of Commerce, said Shen Jiani, a senior researcher from the strategic research center of, a tourism platform.

The overall business scale of the nation’s nighttime economy has been expanding rapidly since 2016, thanks to local government policy support, increased venues for consumption at night, as well as people’s rising appetite for spending in the evening, according to a research report from iiMedia Research.

“The Chinese nighttime economy surpassed 30 trillion yuan by the end of 2020, a growth of 5 percent year-on-year, and the figure is projected to exceed 40 trillion yuan in 2022,” the report said.

“Consumption holds great significance to China’s economy, so we can see governments of various levels launching all kinds of measures and businesses to shore up consumption,” said Zhang Yi, chief analyst with iiMedia Research.

“According to our research, most of the consumption activities are made by Chinese people during 6:00 pm to 2:00 am, both online and offline, showing the nighttime economy has great potential,” Zhang explained.

Tourists try local food at a night market in Wuhan, Hubei province. ZHAO JUN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Contrary to the stereotyped impression that consumption at night is usually referring to food and snacks, the iiMedia Research survey shows it covers much wider activities like delivery services, online shopping, and many other cultural and entertainment activities.

“It is a blending of food, shopping, entertainment, tourism, exercise, exhibitions and shows, and the rapid development of digitalization has made consumption more convenient and easier,” Zhang added.

The Chinese New Year holiday this year, for example, showed people’s consumption at night totaled 379 billion yuan, up 27.06 percent year-on-year and accounted for 33.7 percent of all spending during the holiday, the iiMedia Research report on the nighttime economy showed.

In terms of business, dining and snacks accounted for 28.9 percent of the total spending in the evening, followed by shopping at 28.7 percent, entertainment at 19.9 percent and tourism at 15.8 percent, the report added.

Nighttime economy associated with cultural consumption, tourism and leisure activities has become a strategic part of the nation’s economy and social development, Zhao Yijing, head of nighttime tourism research at the China Tourism Academy was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

As an extension of daytime traveling, tourism in the evening is gradually taking shape over the past several years.

The nighttime traveling economy could be an effective solution for boosting consumption and activating the domestic economy, said Shen Jiani with, adding that summer vacation is the annual peak for traveling in the evening.

Over the past five years, ticket booking volumes during summer vacations for touring scenic spots at night are usually 120 percent that of conventional evenings. Specifically, found that tickets booked in July for evening travel swell 138 percent month-on-month, and saw a growth of 165 percent from the previous month in terms of passenger trips.

Discovering this trend, local governments have already tapped into this emerging market by laying out night touring development schemes. More than 200 cities have so far launched their own nighttime cultural and tourism revitalization plans including nighttime traveling routes, performances, arts and exhibitions among others, according to statistics from the China Tourism Academy.

Since the beginning of the year, dozens of Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen of Guangdong province, Wuhan of Hubei province, Chengdu of Sichuan province, Changsha of Hunan province, and Xi’an of Shaanxi province have launched their own policies in supporting cultural and travel activities at night, said Shen.

Despite the strong demand for high-quality nighttime traveling products, the majority of the offerings on the market, however, are focused on traditional dining, drinking and shopping. Therefore, there is a shortage of integrated and high-quality products, Shen added.

“From the supply perspective, there is spacious room for enhancing nighttime cultural and tourism products in terms of diversification, breadth and depth. The high-quality development of the nighttime economy looks for more cultural embodiment,” Zhao Yijing with the China Tourism Academy said.

China’s large population, its active and innovative online and offline business models, as well as the nation’s culture and history, create broad opportunities for the nighttime economy to explode, Zhang Yi of iiMedia Research suggested.

According to Zhang, over the past few years, Chinese people’s consumption at night was characterized by an increased proportion of online purchases, rising demand for cultural spending, a smaller gap between eastern Chinese cities and inland areas in the west, as well as robust growth in medium and small cities.

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