HOSTING the 10th World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Beijing gave China a chance to showcase its tourism offering and, as well as extending the gathered delegates a warm welcome, Chinese officials were keen to highlight how seriously they take the development of their country’s tourism industry.
Last November the Chinese government officially approved tourism guidelines which give the highest recognition to the industry as a strategic pillar supporting the national economy – a model Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC’s president and CEO has urged other nations to adopt.
Shao Qiwei, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, told the summit: “Tourism is a new engine of world economic growth. Globally, tourism has already surpassed the automotive and oil industries in terms of total revenues and job creation. Some will argue that the tourism industry is a fragile industry. However, recovery is more rapid and stronger than in any other industry.
“Tourism [in China] generates positive returns in terms of job creation – it supports 11 million jobs directly and an additional 5 million indirectly. It also has the strong potential to absorb unemployment.
“China’s [travel and tourism] industry has entered into a strategic phase of development. It started to develop from the 1970s … and, since then, the Chinese government and the industry have made remarkable progress, achieving 1.9 billion domestic trips in 2009. Inbound arrivals totalled 50 million and outbound trips exceeded 40 million – the biggest source of international tourists in Asia.”
He added that the industry has been incorporated into the national strategic development programme and the government has introduced reforms to open up the country in terms of market access and seeking co-operation and is also taking measures to promote the industry, formulating laws for tourism, developing a programme for the recreation of Chinese citizens, improving the regulatory framework and encouraging science and technology to contribute to the development of the industry.
Zhou Enyong, general marketing manager, Air China, said the airline has been changing the way it operates and upgrading services to keep up with consumer trends, particularly from the ever increasing number of domestic travellers.
“Over the years, travel consumption has evolved due to rapid changes in demographics in China. The rural population is becoming increasingly urban as a result of better education. Air travel is becoming a choice of travel for an increasing number of Chinese people. In 2002, fewer than 40 per cent travelled for leisure; in 2008, the respective share was 60 per cent,” he explained.
And Ding Xiangyang, vice mayor of Beijing, added: “From 2004 to 2008, China’s inbound tourism saw an annual increase of 6.8 per cent.
The foreign exchange earning from tourism increased from $25.7 billion to $40.8 billion, an annual increase of 11.7 per cent.
“In recent years outbound tourism has also experienced a rapid increase, from 28.85 million travellers in 2004 to 45.84 million in 2008, an annual increase of 16.7 per cent and China has become the fourth largest receiving nation for inbound tourism, next only to France, America, and Spain. The World Tourism Organisation predicts that by 2015 China will be the world’s largest receiving nation for inbound tourism and the fourth largest tourist source country for outbound tourism.”
But while he is determined to develop Beijing to position the Chinese capital as a truly world-class tourism destination, he accepted that there is still some way to go saying: “Firstly, there is lack of awareness as to the importance of the tourism industry and no consensuses have been reached within society on developing tourism as an industry,” said Zhou.
“Secondly, policy support is improper and industry discriminations exist. Thirdly, an overall, forward-looking and high-level tourist development plan urgently needs to be mapped out and lastly, the tourist structure is not perfect: low-end sightseeing tourism grows rapidly, recreational tourist products are in short supply and high-end commerce, convention and exhibition, and incentive tourism lags behind.”
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