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China’s big ‘Golden Week’ is here. Three hot destinations for spending — and a stock with 95% upside

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China’s appetite for travel hasn’t faded with the end of summer. Whether it’s by train or by car, hundreds of millions of people are traveling around mainland China for a holiday called Golden Week. From the Mid-Autumn Festival on Friday, Sept. 29, to the following Friday, the break runs for an entire week to celebrate China’s National Day. It’s a rare opportunity to take a lengthy vacation in a country where workers typically only get a few paid days off each year. Just over 60% said they would increase their travel budget for this holiday, according to a Bank of America survey in September. One third of respondents said they would spend 5,000 yuan ($680) to 10,000 yuan per person; a group nearly as large said they would spend 10,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan. That includes airfare and hotels, the report said. So where are they going? A separate survey by Morgan Stanley in August found that people in China overwhelmingly say that Hong Kong and the southern province of Hainan are their most popular destinations for shopping while on a trip. Since the pandemic, government efforts to build the island of Hainan into a duty-free shopping center have paid off as people in China stayed within its borders. Morgan Stanley analysts like Hong Kong-listed CTG Duty Free , China’s state-owned duty-free retail giant. They have an overweight rating on the Hong Kong-listed shares, with a price target of 145 Hong Kong dollars — nearly 44% up from where the stock closed Thursday. “We find the emerging trend of: 1)shopping budgets being cut for outbound travel but stable for domestic travel, and 2) a shift in shopping destination, with Hainan gaining popularity, as encouraging,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a Sept. 18 report. While Hainan is still building out its range of luxury product offerings, the tropical island is attracting China’s wealthy for other reasons. “Hainan was already winning because of convenience. They’re also winning now on scenery, they’re winning on shopping prices, winning on hotels,” Imke Wouters, partner at consulting firm Oliver Wyman, said in an interview. The firm surveyed 3,858 affluent Chinese consumers in September. That’s a category with a minimal household income of 30,000 yuan — representing just 5% of China’s total population last year, according to Oliver Wyman. Their study found the majority of Chinese luxury spending in the near term will remain in China, and the casual luxury consumer has become more cautious due to concerns about the economic outlook. Core luxury spenders also aren’t that keen on going to Macau for shopping, but respondents to Oliver Wyman’s survey said the region surpasses Hong Kong and Hainan when it comes to entertainment options. In addition to live concerts –Kpop sensation BlackPink performed in May — casinos are allowed to operate in Macau (but not mainland China). The Macau gaming industry is trading below its historical valuation multiple, according to Morgan Stanley analysts, noting the “two biggest catalysts” for the sector are Golden Week and earnings releases in coming weeks. Two of their overweight-rated stocks in the sector are Hong Kong-traded: MGM China — which has 41% upside to their price target of 14 Hong Kong dollars — and Wynn Macau — which has 35% upside to their price target of 10 Hong Kong dollars. That’s as of Thursday’s close. 95% upside Despite the end of inbound quarantine requirements and other Covid-19 controls about 10 months ago, international flights to and from China still remain below 2019 levels. Citing Chinese data, Oliver Wyman said international flights for the Golden Week holiday are about 40% to 50% more expensive than in 2019. That means people will be traveling more within mainland China for the time being. Within China, domestic hotel room rates are still above 2019 levels, Morgan Stanley analysts said. Among the five hotel companies they cover, they said two have outperformed based on revenue per available room (RevPAR). On that metric, H World saw a 21% increase in the second quarter versus the same period in 2019, while Atour saw a 14% increase during that time, the Morgan Stanley report said. Both stocks are traded in the U.S. As of Wednesday’s close, H World had a 51% upside to the analysts’ price target of $58 a share. Atour had a whopping 95% upside to the $36 price target. On the macro front, if tourism pans out as expected this Golden Week, it will give a much-needed lift to China’s the economy overall. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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