How has China’s travel industry been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, and when will tourism recover?

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China’s travel industry has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic due to lockdowns, travel restrictions and Covid-19 fears.
Photo: AFP

The travel and tourism industry has become a key driver of China’s domestic economy since the 1980s, after the government embarked on its era of reform and opening up

Both the nation’s growing domestic middle class and accommodating government policies have helped it grow exponentially over the past four decades.

Tourism has transformed the country into one of the most vibrant travel markets in the world. However, the industry has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic due to lockdowns, travel restrictions, and fears among would-be travellers about catching Covid-19.

How big is China’s travel and tourism industry?

In 2019, the nation’s tourism industry generated 6.63 trillion yuan (US$1 trillion) in total revenue, with more than 6 billion tourists travelling domestically, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The industry contributed 10.94 trillion yuan to China’s total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 – around 11 per cent.

Tourism is also a big employer, accounting for 10 per cent of China’s working population. The sector directly employs 28.25 million people and indirectly 79.97 million.

Late last year, there were 13,332 A-level tourist attractions across the country. The China National Tourism Administration adopts a rating system to evaluate the quality of all tourist attractions, which are scored on safety, cleanliness, sanitation, shopping and transport.

The number of visitors to an attraction also affects its rating. For instance, a 5A attraction – the highest rating available – usually sees more than 600,000 people, including 50,000 from overseas, each year.

Total inbound travellers surpassed 145 million in 2019, contributing revenue of US$131.3 billion, while some 155 million Chinese tourists went abroad.

China’s domestic tourism (2011-2020)

Total Trips Revenue (yuan)
2011 2.64 billion 1.93 trillion
2012 2.95 billion 2.27 trillion
2013 3.26 billion 2.63 trillion
2014 3.61 billion 3.03 trillion
2015 4.00 billion 3.42 trillion
2016 4.44 billion 3.94 trillion
2017 5.00 billion 4.56 trillion
2018 5.54 billion 5.13 trillion
2019 6.01 billion 5.73 trillion
2020 2.88 billion 2.23 trillion

Source: Ministry of Culture and Tourism

What are the most popular local destinations? Group, formerly known as Ctrip, is China’s largest online travel platform.

Data from Group shows that in 2020, the top 10 tourist spots were popular beach destination Sanya in Hainan province; the spicy, cyberpunk city of Chongqing in southwest China; Lijiang and Kunming in Yunnan province, which are both famous for their year-round great weather and tranquillity; Zhangjiajie in Hunan, home to a forest park renowned for its quartz-sandstone pillars; China’s capital and cultural centre, Beijing; Guilin in Guangxi region, famous for its dramatic landscape of limestone karst hills; the hometown of the panda, Chengdu; mountainous Guiyang in Guizhou province; and China’s financial hub, Shanghai.

Some of China’s most popular attractions include Shanghai Disneyland, Beijing Wildlife Park, Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum in Xi’an, and the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Generally, national parks, museums, historical streets, cultural heritage sites and art galleries are among the most searched for and discussed local destinations on the internet.

Read the full article at South China Morning Post:

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