Nation to promote inbound tourism after COVID recedes

Tourists visit the Harbin Ice-Snow World in Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, Jan 2, 2022. Harbin, famous for its ice and snow tourism, attracts tourists during the winter time. [Photo/Xinhua]

China plans to promote inbound tourism when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control by enhancing promotion and improving services in order to boost international cultural exchanges and high-quality development of tourism, authorities said.

On the basis of ensuring pandemic prevention, the country will adjust policies related to exchanges of inbound and outbound tourists, said the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for the Tourism Industry released by the State Council in January.

China expects to bring more convenience to inbound tourists in many respects, including self-driving trips and cruise tourism. Overseas booking, payment, internet and language services will be improved to help people have a better experience in using bank cards, networks and catering, the plan said.

Besides, the country will promote advertising of tourism cities and develop more good products to meet demand and consumption habits of inbound tourists.

China will boost cooperation with other countries in international shipping, border traffic, vaccination and medical insurance to guarantee people’s security, according to the plan.

It also mentioned developing outbound tourism and promoting other countries to give convenience in visa-free access, language, catering and payment methods for Chinese tourists, as well as enhancing insurance and security work.

The common question for tourism workers is when and how outbound and inbound travel will reopen in the post-COVID-19 era after getting suspended for more than two years, said Cheng Chaogong, chief researcher at travel agency Tongcheng Travel’s research institute, adding the plan provided clarification on promoting tourism development.

“Inbound tourism is key to opening-up, showing cultural confidence and building a strong tourism country,” Cheng said. “Without a strong inbound tourism market, we will lose an important field in international competition.”

Yu Zhanfu, a partner at consultancy Roland Berger, said: “For a long time, Chinese tourists have been spending a lot of money overseas but the volume of foreign tourists in China and their spending are much smaller. It is not a balanced structure. “

Due to a lack of English-speaking workers and good services targeting foreigners, such as high-quality accommodations and overseas publicity, the number of foreign tourists has been limited, Yu said.

With COVID-19 under control, both outbound and inbound tourism will recover gradually, he said, adding it is a long-term plan and does not mean tourism will reopen right at this moment.

Another highlight of the plan is to develop sports tourism. With the Beijing Winter Olympics underway in February, the country will build influential sports-related travel routes in the next five years, hold good sporting events and build demonstration areas for sports tourism, the plan said.

In recent years, many cities organized sporting events such as bicycle races, marathons, sailing races and rock climbing. Yu said the activities are exciting to watch and the locations where they are held often have attractive natural scenes.

“China has various landscapes which offer many platforms for sporting events. The combination of sports and tourism will enrich the travel experience, benefit health and promote consumption, which offers great potential,” he said.

Ice and snow sports are already showing an upward trend. Ticket sales for ice and snow tourism-related attractions on Tongcheng Travel jumped 57 percent year-on-year during Spring Festival, the travel agency said.

Since the winter of 2021, searches and bookings for ice and snow tourism at online travel platform Tuniu have been growing. Demand for self-driving tours including ski resort tickets surpassed supply during Spring Festival, Tuniu said.

Wang Ke, analyst at consultancy Analysys, said climbing, surfing and underwater diving are also popular sports activities among Chinese tourists.

“When tourists turn from the initial form of travel-sightseeing-to travel meant for personal interest, it gives an obvious sign for industrial upgrading,” Wang said.

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