Domestic tourism to rescue China’s tourism industry


As governments all over the world are pouring billions of dollars into their financial system to ride out a possible world economic meltdown, China is looking to its “relatively low-cost tourism” products, including short trips to Macau and Hong Kong to prop up its tourism industry. Can its “billionaire” population now ride to the rescue of its tourism industry?

According to industry analysts, despite the global financial crisis and looming economic recession, “many” Chinese travel companies are confident the country’s huge population and tremendous market potential will continue to create a market demand.

Official industry figures from the Chinese National Tourism Administration (NTA), figures show domestic tourism is flourishing. Domestic tourism will probably not be influenced very much by the financial crisis, believes Zhu Dan, a tourism official from the state-owned tour company. “China’s tourism industry will be able to weather the storm. The crisis will have some effect on tourism, but it will not be very serious.”

During the National Holiday week, 178 million Chinese traveled within the country, up 22.1 percent from the same period last year. “Our business depends mostly on domestic tourism, and China’s booming economy.”

The major impact of the world’s credit crunch is expected to hit inbound tourism.

From January – September this year, China recorded a total of 97.3 million inbound visitor arrivals, earning a revenue of US$30 billion, according to NTA. In September, inbound visitors totaled 10.6 million, a fall of 5.9 percent.

Market observers, though, are expecting a surge in outbound tourism. The Chinese renminbi’s appreciation against other major world currencies, and galore of “special deals” in the major world tourism markets to draw the surge of Chinese tourists are making overseas travel attractive for traveling Chinese.

Despite its still small numbers relative to its total population, Chinese outbound tourism, which total about 34 million in the first nine months of 2008, has shown an increase of 14.8 percent, according to NTA figures. In September, about 3.7 million Chinese traveled overseas, an increase of 9.04 percent compared to last year.

“The credit crunch in the US economy is making it more attractive to travel to the US now, and I am planning to do it,” Liu Junlong told the media when asked if he will be traveling during the coming Spring Festival holiday.

“Experience teaches us that tourism is resilient,” said Francesco Frangialli, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization, who is confident the world’s tourism industry will not be “overly vulnerable” as a result of the world credit crunch.

“People need to take trips, and to take holidays. The need is too strong in our post-industrial society.

“The economic crisis will have less of an effect than the spread of SARS which hit mainly Asia, and travel fell sharply.”

The uncertain global economic backlash and “volatile economic environment” in the US will not spare Asia Pacific, said Alex Kyriakidis, global managing partner of tourism, hospitality and leisure at accountants Deloitte. “The backlash for the Asian region has been delayed, but it is inevitable.”