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April 23, 2021

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Tourism sites join ‘blind box’ craze

The “blind box” fad has expanded to the tourism industry.

A blind box, known as manghe in Chinese, contains hand-sized toys. A set of boxes contain a number of similar toys with the same style, theme and packaging. Buyers never know what they are getting until they open one.

Many young people in China have become obsessed with it, because they enjoy the fun of uncertainty and the delight of the moment when they open the boxes.

Cashing in on the craze, online travel operator Tongcheng-Elong launched an air ticket blind box product priced at 98 yuan (US$15) earlier this month, attracting more than 20 million buyers and selling out quickly.

People can choose a departure city, while the destination and departure time are both unknown. If they do not like the “content” after opening the box, they can get a full refund.

Other major online tourism service providers in China such as and Alibaba’s travel site Fliggy have joined the craze with similar products. is offering a hotel blind box priced at 699 and 999 yuan with a one-night accommodation, and a 99-yuan airline blind box with more than 100 domestic destinations.

Unlike the airline blind box, people can choose the destination of the hotel blind box, but they do not know which hotel.

The promotion runs from April 19 to May 12, and Chengdu, Sanya, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Zhuhai are some of the most popular destinations, said.

Between yesterday and April 26, Tongcheng-Elong is offering another round of airline blind boxes priced at 98 yuan, with more than 200 destinations and covering the May Day holiday. It has enhanced the promotion with “benefit tickets,” such as round-trip and business-class tickets.

“We received a lot of calls from people after the promotion was initially launched and quickly sold out, because they want to ‘play’ again,” said Zhang Chao, who is in charge of blind box for Tongcheng-Elong.

The promotion aims to spur domestic tourism consumption and help the tourism market recover, Zhang said.

Cup of milk tea

Fliggy has launched a 66-yuan airline blind box where people can choose one of two destinations hidden in the box.

“Excluding the airport tax of 50 yuan, the ticket costs only 16 yuan, which is the same as the price of a cup of milk tea,” Fliggy said in a WeChat article.

However, despite all the “appealing” and “juicy” promotional wording, the products do not seem to be that “beautiful.”

Many of the destinations are either unpopular, require red-eye flights or have workday departure dates.

Insiders said a high refund rate is unavoidable, but the goal of the promotion has been achieved.

Shanghai resident Ji Xiaolin, 29, bought an airline blind box for 98 yuan to Yulin, Shaanxi Province, with a weekday departure date. He applied for a refund immediately.

“I bought it more out of curiosity and the fun of opening it, which is an uncertainty. But I will not go because I had no idea what the destination would be, and I need to work that day.”

Another local resident, Amy Huang, got a ticket to Qingdao, Shandong Province, but the departure time was late on a workday. She applied for a refund as well.

“It’s like a lucky draw, but there is a slim chance of getting the one you want,” she said. “But still, I enjoyed the fun of opening the box.”


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