During the last decade, tourism in China has increased greatly, contributing not only to the international openness of the Republic, but also to the economic development that the country has experienced.
It is, however, still only the area around the East Coast, especially Beijing and Shanghai, that is very popular amongst international travelers. Therefore, at the CITM conference in Kunming, Yunnan province, representatives from other parts of China give their all to show off the cultural and ethnic experiences they have to offer, as well as the beautiful sceneries and natural charms that can be found.
In the midst of all the singing, showing and dancing, I meet Guy Feest, an Australian by birth, but now running a recreation resort in Chongqing. He is here as a foreigner, but at the same time, he is promoting his own resort to the international guests and as such is also a part of the Chinese tourist industry.
In the next five or ten years, Guy hopes to have international guests making up 20-25 % of his clientele. This goal shows his optimism for the Chinese tourist industry.
"China is so different from, for example, Australia and Europe, so people from other cultures can have extraordinary experiences by travelling to China, and that is a great attraction for tourists", he says.
"China never stops surprising me, even though I have lived here for 12 years now".
This difference from other cultures seems to be something generally considered an attraction amongst international guests. Participating from Russia is Andrey Surikov, who is a tour operator in for Russian tourism to China, and he agrees with Guy Feest.
"The biggest attraction for China is probably its great difference from other cultures. The way of thinking is different here, as well as the heritage and minority cultures. And, of course, it is a very beautiful country with unique nature," he says.
But if China has so many attractions, why is tourism to places other than around Beijing and Shanghai still limited? Andrey Surikov thinks a part of the explanation is the language barrier and lack of guides with foreign language skills
"For Russians, it is a big problem that there are very few Russian-speaking guides, because Russians like to travel in tourist groups," he says. "For example, here in Kunming, there is not a single Russian-speaker! And that is an obstacle if China wants more Russian tourism".
Turning the eye away from Russia and onto other parts of the world, language might not be the only thing holding travelers from going to the Western parts of China. "Tourists from Europe travel more independently," Andrey Surikov says.
"They plan their journeys themselves, but to do that they might need easier access to information about the possibilities in the provinces."
I suggest an official webpage with train schedules, accommodation "ossibilities and contact information in English, and he nods. "Yes, that might help the independent travelers and make them take the step to actually going instead of just dreaming."
China has many amazing destinations with great tourism possibilities. There are sceneries, cultural variety and a very friendly people to welcome guests. And tourism might boost the economy in the provinces where it is needed.
However, as foreigner, it is discouraging if communication is difficult and basic information is hard to get. Maybe that is what China needs to stimulate if a tourism industry is to flourish even more in the future.