CYTS looks to smaller cities for tourism sector

Updated: 2011-07-29 08:00

By Wei Tian (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China CYTS Tours Holding Co Ltd, a leading tourism service provider in China, is seeking a stronger foothold in second- and third-tier cities, along with an improved service standard to survive weak inbound market growth, the agency's top executive said.

"There will be 10 new stores opened in North China this year, mainly in the areas around Beijing," Zhang Lijun, president of CYTS, said in an interview with China Daily.

Zhang explained that the tourists in first-tier cities tend to prefer more diversified itineraries such as independent travel, whereas smaller cities, such as Tangshan, Dalian and Qingdao, may see business boosted by growing demand for traditional group-sightseeing.

Apart from reinforcing its domestic and outbound business, the move is also being made in the hope of supplementing the weak growth of the inbound tourism market.

According to the National Tourism Administration of China, tourism industry revenue in the first half of 2011 exceeded 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion) with 18 percent year-on-year growth. The inbound tourism market grew by only 1 percent.

The inbound market was boosted by the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai World Expo in previous years, but it is now hampered by negative effects such as the yuan's appreciation and surging prices, Zhang said.

"Most inbound tourists used to be diplomats, thus they were treated with the highest standards. But as it became more everyday, its significance diminished," said Zhang Hua, director of CYTS' customer service center.

JTB Corp, the largest travel agency in Japan, is now asking local Chinese travel agencies for proof of ability before they send their tourists to China, which reflects foreign tourists' caution with service standards, she said.

It's not only the inbound market, Zhang said, but the entire tourism industry that needs to improve its image and get more organized.

Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration, once described the Chinese tourism industry as "first-class resources, second-class development, third-class service".

"The industry is following an unsustainable development model," Zhang Lijun said. "The agencies make a vegetable peddler's profit, but with a drug dealer's risk."

He did not speak groundlessly.

In March 2010, a video showing a female travel guide shouting at tourists for not buying enough souvenirs during their trip to Hong Kong was widely circulated online, arousing criticism and prompting Hong Kong authorities to strictly prohibit forced purchases.

Meanwhile, reports on the living condition of travel guides, their low salaries and harsh complaints they face, suggested a miserable future for the career.

The tourism industry was expected to be one of the pillar industries in the nation's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), with a target set for 10 percent annual growth reaching 2.3 trillion yuan yearly revenue in 2015.

As one of the two pilot agencies selected by the National Tourism Administration, CYTS has been pressing forward with standardization of customer service and internal company management.

The agency has published 316 documents regulating nearly every facet of its transactions.

For example, the 10 stores to be opened are required to have a unified design and systematic training for its employees.

"The change is finally reflected in every detail of the tourists' experiences," said Li Jing, CTYS vice-president. "For example, we make sure that every tourist is given a bottle of water when they leave customs."

"Standardized operations can help establish brand image," Zhang said. "But more important, we hope the tourists will see the value of the service."

China Daily

(China Daily 07/29/2011 page15)