4 ways Chinese New Year boosts world's economy

Billions of people have begun celebrating the holiday, taking part in traditions that create business revenue globally.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 8, 2013 3:54PM

The Chinese New Year will usher in the year of the snake on Sunday. People born in this year are said to have good business sense and people skills.


Many Asian countries will be in holiday mode all next week, with most businesses grinding to a halt, stock markets closed and millions of people on the move to be with friends and family.


The Chinese New Year is celebrated internationally, and has a big financial impact worldwide. Here are some examples:


Travel.
An estimated 200 million people in China will be boarding trains home for the holiday this weekend "in what has been described as the world’s largest annual migration," notes the Irish Independent. China’s Global Times says that on Jan. 15, train tickets to several major Chinese cities sold out in 20 seconds.


But some of those Chinese will travel elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal says South Korea’s tourism revenue reached a record $14.23 billion last year. And that may have been helped in part by the influx of Chinese tourists. South Korea is expecting a 25% increase in Chinese tourists next week, compared to the 2012 lunar New Year.


Thailand’s Tourism Authority says it expects more than 2.6 million domestic and foreign tourists moving around the country during the holiday, generating nearly $3.75 billion U.S. dollars in spending.


Macau’s gambling casinos -- the world’s largest gambling hub -- are bracing for a rush of tourists hoping to cash in on their New Year’s luck. Bloomberg reports 17 major casinos there are sold out ahead of the holiday. And an analyst says the surge may boost monthly casino revenue in Macao by 15%, compared to last year’s New Year’s festivities.


Las Vegas is also rolling out the red carpet for Chinese New Year revelers. A 2011 Las Vegas visitor profile study said about 3% of the city’s 39 million annual visitors -- or more than 1 million people -- are Asian or Asian-American. And organizers say leisure travel to Sin City during the New Year has become very popular with China’s growing middle class. Toy snakes for sale are covered in snow at market in Shanghai on February 8, 2013 (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)


Business. The Lunar New Year causes an economic ripple effect well beyond Asia. “American retailers like Macy's (M) and The Container Store will be forced to adjust operational supply chains to ensure they don't run out of stock while their suppliers are celebrating,” says USA Today.


Haver Analytics, meanwhile, reported China’s exports of goods fell by a record $28 billion last February during the New Year holiday while imports rose $14.4 billion. That created a New Year-related trade deficit of $19.3 billion -- which, according to the website, suggests “that in the future the impact of the New Year on the [Chinese] economy may continue to be more significant than it has been in the past.”


The days leading up to the Lunar New Year are considered good ones to settle any unpaid accounts -- and in Asia it’s a time for end-of-year bonuses. A Chinese anti-corruption campaign, meanwhile, is reportedly hurting sales of some high-end items like jewelry and designer watches.


Money. This is the time of year for married couples to hand out cash gifts in decorated red envelopes, called hongbao in Mandarin, usually to children and single adults. There’s a certain protocol to follow if you plan to be the gift giver: Don’t fold the paper money inside the envelope, and avoid old and ratty bills. Also stay away from multiples of four -- as the number four in Chinese sounds a lot like the word for “death.”


"For your elders, the sum in each packet should end with the figure eight, to wish them wealth and prosperity, or six, for longevity," advises the Expat Kiwis blog. "For peers, such as cousins or siblings, stick with any amount ending with eight. For juniors, any amount ending with the digits 2 or 6 will be appropriate as they symbolize good health."


Food and Drink. Like with other holiday traditions around the world, the Lunar New Year often calls for a lavish family meal. And there are loads of foods considered lucky to eat during the holiday. Steamed or fried dumplings are a big hit, since they resemble old-style Chinese gold ingots. Oranges and tangerines, symbolizing prosperity, are popular -- as is fish, since the word is a pun in Chinese on another word that means “surplus,” or “plenty.”


Several big beer companies are getting into the New Year spirit, according to Ad Age. Budweiser, a part of Anheuser Busch (BUD), recently launched an international ad campaign called "Celebrate Chinese New Year Around The World." And one of China’s best-known beers, Tsingtao Lager, has special New Year’s packaging in the U.S. for its 6-, 12- and 24-packs.


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