BEIJING, China – Yue Zhongbin is a lover of travel, yet he was surprised to learn that Thursday is China’s first National Tourism Day.
“National Tourism Day? Never heard of it,” said Yue, who is working at a public institution in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.
The National Tourism Administration of China (CNTA) announced last month that May 19 would be the National Tourism Day starting this year, a move aimed at arousing the public’s enthusiasm to travel and promote tourism consumption.
The date was chosen to commemorate the day when China’s ancient travel book writer, Xu Xiake, began writing his masterpiece “Travel Notes of Xu Xiake” during the Ming Dynasty.
However, Yue, 27, decided to pass the day at work. “At our age, we should be working hard,” he said, “Leisure is a kind of a luxury for us.”
Yue is not the only one reluctant to travel on this day. Xiang Yuan, an employee at a private company, in east China’s Shandong Province, said her mortgage loan had left her in no mood for any travel.
“I work six days a week, once I get a day off the only thing I want to do is to take a rest,” said 27-year-old Xiang.
Xiang and her husband, who were married in early May, decided to give up their honeymoon travel plan to the beach in Hainan Province, as they have to pay 1,800 yuan per month for their loan, which is nearly one-third of the family’s total income.
Dai Bin, president of China Tourism Academy, said time, money and government policy are three major factors that can help stimulate public interest in travelling.
Statistics show that the country’s tourism income surged 18.9 percent year on year to 1.26 trillion yuan (194 billion U.S. dollars) over the past five years. However, this amount only makes up 4 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. To many, tourism remains a “luxury.”
Sociology professor Ma Guanghai with Shandong University said China is a developing country and many people are still struggling for basic life needs, such as food and housing.
“Under the pressure of work and life in modern society, the Chinese people need an economic and a social base first, before accepting regular tourism consumption,” said Ma.
Dong Hongyang, a researcher with the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Studies, said China had a long way to go in promoting the National Tourism Day so that the public could accept the concept.
“More promotions were needed in combination of traditional Chinese culture, so as to further spread tourism culture and enhance the development of tourism industry,” he said.