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'Hey, here we are'

By Luo Weiteng | HK EDITION | Updated: 2021-02-07 13:40
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Customers visit Global Premium Duty Free Plaza in Haikou, South China's Hainan province, on Jan 31, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Potential needs unlocking

The challenge for some culturally rich yet less-known destinations, say industry experts, lies in marketing their unique resources in an age of instant, ubiquitous information that puts the lie to the ancient idiom "Good wine needs no bush", meaning something of quality need not be advertised.

China's remote northwestern region, in particular, has become one of the go-to destinations. Gansu province alone recorded approximately 15.95 million tourist visits from Oct 1 to 8, raking in 9.26 billion yuan of tourism revenue.

Guan Yueheng, a marketer based in Shanghai, would usually travel abroad to keep away from the crowds, long queues and pricey accommodation in domestic tourist attractions during public holidays. This year, she said, she headed to the northwestern region, only to discover that its awe-inspiring scenery and magnificent landscape are "second to none and seriously underrated".

Likewise, Zhang Ran, an in-house counsel at a Beijing-based e-commerce company, visited Shanxi province and said he was impressed by its well-preserved treasures of ancient Chinese architecture.

"Previously, millions of Chinese visitors were attracted to Japan, in our quest to get a so-called taste of the Tang dynasty," Zhang said. "Yet, it turns out that all of the four remaining wooden structures preserved from the Tang dynasty in China are found in Shanxi, with more than 18,000 complex remains identified and scattered throughout the province," Zhang said. "Shanxi deserves to be known by more people."

While the domestic tourism industry is betting big on a bounce back in the post-pandemic era, those destinations lack the supporting infrastructure and services necessary to unlock their potential, said Zhou Mingqi, chief analyst at Jingjian Thinktank, a tourism marketing consulting company. The destinations need to expand and improve transportation, accommodation, scenic spot planning and management, Zhou said.

Tourism contributed more than 9 percent to the mainland's economy in 2019, and stands as a cornerstone of the government's long-term goal to create a consumption-driven economy.

The domestic tourism industry, expected to be worth 6 percent of the mainland's economic output by the end of 2020, can be a bright spot in the "dual circulation" development model that is central to the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), said Liu Zhengshan, deputy secretary-general of the China Research Society of Urban Development.

The model combines tapping the potential of China's massive domestic market and indigenous innovation to fuel growth with international economic engagement.

Changing appetites and abundant concerns among the nation's increasingly fickle and choosy travelers in the post-pandemic era also indicate that domestic tourism has to shift from a primary stage of natural beauty and the old mindset of "living on the providing of Heaven", to a refined growth model powered by cultural values, said Song Rui, director of the Tourism Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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