Power shortage spurs new tourism
Zhu Husheng, domestic tour unit manager of Shanghai Spring International Travel Service Ltd, can't hide his excitement when talking about his firm's unexpectedly bullish business this summer.
"The robust business is just beyond our expectations,'' said Zhu, citing company revenue statistics in July that hit some 78 million yuan (US$9.43 million).
The sales represents a strong 53 per cent growth over the more comparable 2002 figures that take into consideration the impact of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) impact, according to Zhu.
Yet believe it or not, such a bullish market is, to a large extent, linked with the summertime power shortage Shanghai has experienced.
As part of the city's measures to guarantee local power supply on the whole, some 3,000 industrial enterprises are expected to temporarily halt their operations for rotating stints and make arrangements allowing their employees to take a week's vacation. That has created a surprisingly strong travel market demand, Zhu explained.
According to Zhu's estimates, the 3,000 enterprises involved may affect more than 600,000 local families, among which a majority will have touring plans, with each family's travel expenses reaching about 5,000 yuan (US$600) on average.
"It seems a new area has appeared in front of us that helps heighten our business,'' said Zhu.
A total of 23 local travel agencies like Shanghai Spring have offered a variety of tour packages to best cater to this new market demand, according to Zhu.
Yet it looks as if such an unforeseen hot travel market had better be viewed as a sideline phenomenon that will add some rosy colour to the severe power supply picture this summer.
Peng Yong, a manager of Shanghai Showa Highpolymer Co Ltd, is now a bit worried about his company's operations towards the end of this month. That's because the firm which involves Japanese investment is expected to suspend its output one week then.
The company in the local Qingpu District plans to arrange an overall physical check-up and a tour to the neighbouring Zhejiang Province for its employees during the down time.
"Losses are inevitable... yet we need to play our supporting role for the government to deal with the energy situation,'' he said.
Like many other areas around China, Shanghai has seen soaring power use loads since mid-June, and statistics indicate the city's power demands hit a record 15.01 million kilowatts by July 23, despite a number of measures put in place to lower power needs during peak times.
Officials said the soaring power loads are largely due to the full use of local households' air conditioners, coupled with high power consumption in the industrial sector.
Shanghai's current energy policy is meant to guarantee power supplies to local residents and key enterprises whose operations match local industrial guidelines. The policy is also designed to guarantee life and production in the city are in good order, according to Shanghai government spokeswoman Jiao Yang.
Under the plans, measures have been taken to better address what has been called "seasonal power shortfalls.''
Apart from the 3,000 industrial enterprises that are expected to halt their production temporarily, some 1,700 enterprises -- all big energy consumers -- have been required to shift their operating times to the early hours of the morning and from midnight to 8 am.
Also, local government departments, office buildings and large commercial facilities are expected to keep the settings of their air conditioning systems at no lower than 26 C, a measure believed to save substantial energy.
Even the city's many ornamental lamps, appearing on local streets and buildings to add an appealing nighttime landscape, have been shut off temporarily when the temperature goes above 35 C.
"It's a pity that without the lamps we have missed the best parts of the Bund's famous nighttime scenes,'' said a visitor surnamed Huang from Central China's Henan Province, referring to the scenic lamps' being shut off in the city's landmark tourism area.