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Tourism focus should be domestic market

By Song Rui | China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-28 07:18


For tourist sites and the tourist industry as a whole, an ideal situation would be balanced development of domestic tourism, and inbound and outbound tourism. But in reality, the pace of growth of the three markets is different owing to their different development stages and consumption capacities.

For years since the launch of reform and opening-up, the tourism industry focused on inbound tourism. The domestic tourism and outbound tourism sectors developed later, and their market scales were comparatively small. The development pattern began changing in the mid-1990s. During the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period, the outbound tourism market's scale was larger and its pace of growth higher than the inbound tourism market.

China accounts for the largest number of outbound tourists in the world; it is also the fourth-largest destination for foreign tourists. Had the novel coronavirus pandemic not broken out, by the end of this year the total numbers of domestic tourists, inbound tourists and outbound tourists were expected to increase by 108 percent, 97 percent and 118 percent respectively during the 13th Five Year Plan period.

The pandemic has changed the growth trajectory of the tourism and many other sectors. Yet under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and with the concerted efforts of the people and governments at all levels, China has effectively contained the virus, and resumed production and other economic activities.

The country's leadership has now decided to follow a "dual circulation" development pattern, which is centered on the domestic economy ("internal circulation") and aims to integrate the domestic economy with the global economy ("external circulation") in order to enhance China's global competitiveness and cooperation.

During the National Day Golden Week holiday, the number of domestic tourists was about 79 percent of last year, and the domestic tourism industry's income was 69.9 percent vis-à-vis last year-a remarkable recovery considering the huge impact of the pandemic.

Short-distance family trips were most popular during the Golden Week holiday, with museums, urban parks, commercial districts and suburban tourist sites being high on the tourists' list.

Also, thanks to the duty-free policy, the daily revenue of Hainan province's duty free sales sector exceeded 100 million yuan ($14.95 million) during the National Day holiday, which saw many potential outbound tourists opt for domestic destinations. As such, tourism has become an important driver of post-pandemic economic recovery for China.

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the world. And since it is still raging in many parts of the world, the global tourism industry is not likely to recover soon. According to the estimation of some international organizations including the United Nations, it would take at least two to three years for the global tourism industry to recover. So countries that have been traditional tourist destinations should take appropriate measures to ride out the rough road ahead.

It is important to explore new measures to encourage potential outbound tourists to satisfy their travel lust on the domestic circuit. However, the domestic tourism industry needs to improve its services and marketing system to attract more tourists, especially potential outbound tourists, in order to boost the recovery of the tourism industry.

Compared with the sluggish global tourism market, the domestic tourism market has recovered to a large extent. And the domestic tourism industry can further propel its growth by seizing the opportunities offered by China's economic recovery, while strictly following the epidemic prevention and control measures.

The pandemic has changed the nature of tourism, as more people today prefer short-distance travel during holidays because they seem more concerned about prevention and control measures, and security and emergency plans.

Since this trend is likely to continue during a part of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, travel agencies and tourist sites should make arrangements to meet the tourists' new demands. Travel agencies should also provide better services to satisfy tourists' needs, so as to attract more domestic tourists.

The author is director of the Tourism Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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