China's millions journey home for New Year

Millions in China are boarding trains, planes and automobiles as the Lunar New Year travel rush, the world's largest seasonal human migration, reaches its climax.

China's most important festival falls on Friday and people are travelling to either return to their hometowns or flock to holiday destinations. For many migrant workers in the country's industrialised east, the holiday may be the only time of year they return home to see family and friends.

Weeks before the rush, many travellers had used smartphone apps to snatch up tickets that later sold out. Some train journeys between cities and rural areas last more than 20 hours, with passengers crowded into cabins that are standing room only.

The state railway operator reported on Monday that 98.8 million people rode trains countrywide during the first 12 days of February. China's official Xinhua news agency said more than 1.1 million were expected to pass through railway stations in Beijing on Tuesday and Wednesday alone.

Increasing numbers of Chinese have also been travelling abroad in recent years, reflecting rising prosperity among the urban middle class.

More than 6.5 million are expected to head overseas this year, according to a joint report from travel agency Ctrip and the China Tourism Academy.

Travellers have booked voyages to more than 68 nations and regions, the report said, with Thailand, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Nordic countries among the top destinations. The average Chinese tourist spends about 9,500 yuan ($A1,890) on a Lunar New Year trip, the report said.

Domestic travel is also popular: the National Tourism Administration predicted earlier this month that this year's holiday period will bring in 476 billion yuan ($A95 billion) in tourism revenue.

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