Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Toilet revolution for tourism evolution

By Li Jinzao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-07 07:46

Toilet revolution for tourism evolution

A staff worker displays a model of the smart toilet lids in Hangzhou's manufacturing district of Xiasha, March 9, 2015.[Photo/CFP]

The one thing foreigners complain most about in China is public toilets. A retired pilot, who had lived overseas for more than 40 years, once wrote me a letter, saying: "In the autumn of 2013, I came across a group of some 100 German tourists during my trip to the Three Gorges. The Germans I talked to were full of praise for China, but they said toilets at tourist spots were a big problem. I even saw a German woman forced to pee in her pants because she couldn't find a (clean) toilet."

Many foreigners who come to China say they will never forget the scary toilet experience. Given this fact, how can our tourism industry take big strides?

Many local governments are investing a lot of money, material and human capital to promote their tourist sites, yet they are reluctant to make real efforts to build and manage clean toilets. What they don't understand is that dirty and poorly equipped toilets could put all their efforts of tourism promotion to waste, which will have an almost irreversible negative impact.

In order to grow, the tourism industry has to fill the gap in public services, particularly in providing clean and well-maintained toilets. After several years of efforts, many tourist spots have made some progress in building and managing toilets, yet on the whole, they have not been able to overcome the problem of dirty, untidy, poorly equipped toilets. Nor have they been able to ensure enough and easily accessible toilets.

As a major tourism destination that receives more than 3.7 billion visitors a year, China should not treat the problem of toilets as a small matter. According to estimates, an average tourist visiting China uses public toilets eight times during one trip, which means tourists as a whole will visit toilets more than 27 billion times a year. This is indeed an astronomical number. If we want to make tourists feel comfortable and happy, and ensure they discover and appreciate beauty finding a solution to the toilet problem should be our top priority.

The problem, unfortunately, has become almost intractable over time. And precisely for this reason we need a slogan like "Toilet revolution for tourism evolution".

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