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Tourism industry on way to full recovery

By Yang Jinsong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-30 08:50
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There have been strong signs since last year suggesting the tourism sector is on way to full recovery. Passenger trips within the country in 2023 increased to 4.89 billion, 93.3 percent more than the previous year, with domestic travelers spending 4.91 trillion yuan ($691.2 billion), up 140.3 percent year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The huge domestic tourism market has been helping stabilize the global tourism industry as well as driving its growth. The number of tourists in China has been continuously increasing over the past four decades, with domestic passenger trips jumping from less than 500 million in the 1980s to more than 6 billion in 2019 at an average annual growth of about 10 percent.

China boasts both one of the world's largest inbound tourism markets and a massive domestic tourist industry, which has been fast recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic. Official data show that during the eight-day Spring Festival holidays in February, 474 million domestic passenger trips were made, up 34.3 percent year-on-year, with the total domestic tourism spending increasing 47.3 percent year-on-year to about 632.69 billion yuan. Also, about 119 million domestic passenger trips were made during the three-day Qingming Festival holiday earlier this month, an increase of 11.5 percent over the same period in 2019, with the domestic tourism industry's revenue reaching 53.95 billion yuan, up 12.7 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

A large number of Chinese tourists have traveled or are willing to travel abroad this year, while other countries are learning from China's innovative development model to make their tourism industries more resilient. For example, barbecue in Zibo, Shandong province; malatang, a soup containing boiled meat and vegetables seasoned with mouthwatering, spicy scarlet chili oil, in Tianshui, Gansu province; and the ice-snow tourism festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, all have boosted domestic tourism. Their sound infrastructure, clean image and excellent public services have attracted even foreign internet influencers.

The huge domestic tourism market and supporting industries are China's advantages, and they have accumulated rich experiences which the global tourism industry can reference. China's tourism industry is treading the right path to optimize the tourism products, promoting the high-quality development of tourist destinations and developing new tourism formats.

China's inbound and outbound tourism sectors both have performed well this year. During the Spring Festival holidays, Chinese people made 3.6 million outbound trips, close to the 2019 level. And while the number of outbound passenger trips could reach 130 million this year and inbound tourist footfalls could recover to 50 percent of the 2019 level, the inbound tourism markets of the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and the Taiwan island province are expected to make fast recovery, according to the China Tourism Academy.

Therefore, it can be safely said that China's tourism industry is on way to full recovery and is injecting new impetus into the global tourism industry. China's tourism industry shares with the rest of the world its development opportunities and strives to promote the development of a more open, more cooperative and higher-quality tourism market. For example, many tourist destinations across the world have benefited from Chinese tourists, as the swelling numbers of Chinese tourists in other countries have helped create more jobs and boost people-to-people exchanges.

The Chinese government has been taking measures to boost the tourism sector, for example, by encouraging Chinese nationals to visit foreign countries, which incidentally will help the global tourism industry to recover. The fact that an increasing number of Chinese tourists visited countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative in 2023 means more Belt and Road countries benefitting from the growth of China's tourism market.

Besides, China's high-quality opening-up requires high-quality cooperation and exchanges among countries, which tourism readily provides. Since the second half of last year, China has been introducing plans to make travel for foreign tourists easier. In July, China resumed visa-free entry for the citizens of Singapore and Brunei. From December, French, German, Italian, Malaysian, Dutch and Spanish nationals can get a 15-day visa-free entry into China for business, tourism, family visit and transit purposes.

Also, from March 14 this year, China has granted visa-free entry on a trial basis to visitors from Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. Before that, in January, the National Immigration Administration introduced five new measures to facilitate foreigners' entry into the country, which include relaxation of port visa application requirements and provisions of visa extension, providing replacement and issuance services at local immigration departments for foreign nationals visiting or staying in China for non-diplomatic, non-official purposes, such as trade, investment or entrepreneurship or for visiting relatives.

Moreover, foreign nationals can enjoy 24-hour direct transit without undergoing border checks at nine major airports including those in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Xiamen and Guangzhou. And while multiple-entry visas are available for foreigners, the requirements for visa have been streamlined for foreigners staying in China.

In addition, the government will launch a series of targeted measures to address existing problems and propel the inbound tourism market. For example, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said at a news conference in March that it will make it easier for payments at various places such as tourist attractions, cultural and performance venues and star-rated hotels.

The government attaches great importance to people's desire for a better life, which includes good travel experience. The government links this desire with the recovery and sustainable development of the global tourism industry. The positive impact of the recovery of China's tourism sector will encourage more countries to work together to boost the global tourism industry.

The author is director of the International Institute at the China Tourism Academy.The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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