Quality Crucial in Tourism Growth in China

In recent years, tourism in China has become another eye-catching sector in the nation's economy, also creating more jobs, with an annual growth rate in revenues of 7 percent, reported the China Daily newspaper.  The increasingly heated tourism market in China is creating enticing business opportunities for tourism-related entities. From just 300,000 in 1978, the number of foreign visitors to China reached 22 million in 2006, excluding arrivals from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, according to the China National Tourism Administration. In the next decade, the industry's annual growth rate is expected to reach 10.4 percent. Revenues from individual tourism is projected to enjoy an annual growth rate of 9.8 percent, with group tourism projected to grow 10.9 percent.  In 2010, the sector will make an even larger contribution to the nation's economy, making up 8 percent of its gross domestic product, compared to the current 5.44 percent.

With the Olympics as a launch pad, China hopes to be the world’s top tourism location

Beijing, the Chinese capital, is preparing to receive 500,000 overseas visitors during the 2008 Summer Games from August 8-24, up from 350,000 visitors in August 2006. Those Olympic visitors are expected to spend about $5 billion, according to China’s tourist board. Meanwhile, foreign tour operators and airlines are expanding services to meet growing demand in Beijing and across the country.

In the world’s most populous nation, a tourist can find tranquillity in the remote mountains of Tibet, visit ancient archaeological sites such as the Terracotta Warriors in Xian, climb the Great Wall, party in the big cities, relax on a southern island beach and eat several types of Chinese food.

This year alone China’s tourism industry is expected to generate $78 billion, 2.5% of GDP, a figure that could rise to $277 billion by 2017, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

In Beijing, China’s top tourist draw, revenue from the industry is growing at about 7% a year, accounting for around eight percent of the city’s gross domestic product, according to official figures.

China Travelers - inbound challenges

Travel, in China, is neither the fashion nor the luxury it was 10 or 20 years ago. It has become part of life. The urban population, at whatever age, involved in whatever job, is passionate about traveling. It is not only about time, it is not only about money - it is about enjoying life.

However, the increase of Chinese tourists in country posed some challenges.

Higher requirements for the quality of products and services from Chinese travelers is making it more difficult for the sector - including hotels, travel agencies and scenic destination operators - to make clients happy.  As a way to relax or reward themselves after a period of hard work, Chinese are more frequently spending holidays or weekends at resorts or scenic spots. They have become smarter in telling good from bad and more reasoned in their choices. They do not like to pay a cent for cheap, but badly designed routes or dirty and unsafe scenic spots, yet are generous in paying for expensive but reputable products and services. Their buying habits have moved far beyond hurriedly glancing at venues and then swarming to stalls to purchase gifts to bring back home. They care whether they are psychologically moved and pleased in relaxation. But what about the current situation and performance of China's tourism-related players? Absolutely far from perfect. There are few domestic hotel chains whose operations meet international hospitality standards, let alone compete with the international hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt.  And most local scenic spot operators prefer to reap benefits from increasing the ticket fees rather than on reasonable management.

Tour operators' performance is the worst part of the sector. There are hundreds of players in China, but their operations are disordered and they are not competing at an international level.  They will be destroying their reputation and be phased out of the game amid fierce competition from their foreign peers if they do not make timely and appropriate moves to make themselves a more attractive choice for consumers. The best way out is quite simple: branding - building up a trusted tourism brand through offering consumers sustained and memorable traveling experiences, creating some intangible bond and emotional attachment with consumers.

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