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Domestic focus gives fillip to tourism industry

By XING YI in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-24 10:15

A visitor touches an interactive screen in Yancheng, East China's Jiangsu province, on Nov 21, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's tourism industry is shrugging off the economic impact of COVID-19, gradually regaining confidence and adapting to the new normal, industry insiders said.

Thanks to China's effective epidemic control measures, Chinese tourists are traveling again, but mostly on the mainland as international travel restrictions and quarantine measures are still severe globally.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently hosted the 2020 China International Travel Mart in Shanghai. The event attracted 1,500 exhibitors, mainly domestic travel agencies and local government tourism bureaus.

At the event, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region promoted 10 routes for winter travel, while Guizhou province showcased its various ethnic cultures. The newly founded tourism alliance of the Yangtze River Delta highlighted 66 high-speed rails that link 95 tourist sites in the region.

"The industry is gaining confidence and momentum," said Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy. "The panic and anxiety that struck the industry in February have been replaced by reasonable optimism."

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, more than 637 million visits were made to attractions on the Chinese mainland during the eight-day extended break of the National Day holiday in early October, which is about 80 percent of what was seen in the same period last year.

Dai said the willingness to travel in the fourth quarter among urban residents has returned to the same level as last year's, and the impact of the COVID-19 has also pushed travel companies to upgrade their products and services.

"Demand for travel hasn't gone-it was just suppressed, and new trends, such as smaller groups, customization, and family road trips, are picking up momentum," he said.

Many outbound travel agencies have turned to the domestic market, providing more tours for small groups.

Atrails, a company that used to specialize in customized outbound tours, shifted its focus to domestic tours in February after the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, tours of Yunnan, Gansu and Guizhou provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are the mainstay of its offerings.

"The different cultural elements in these areas appeal to domestic tourists. For many domestic tourists, visiting another province or part of China is like visiting a foreign country," said Zhang Xiaolin, co-founder of Atrails.

Zhu Chunye, deputy general manager of CTG Travel Services Co, said more travelers are visiting lesser-known travel destinations this year.

"Before the COVID-19, people who traveled to Hainan province used to go to Sanya mostly, but now places like Wenchang, Lingshui and Boao have become more popular," he said, adding that the company has also promoted more new tours and hotels in Hainan.

Rv2go, a recreational vehicle rental company, said it has added 500 RVs to its fleet for tours to provinces and autonomous regions in Northwest China, including Qinghai province, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, and Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

Yang Songbai, general manager of Rv2go, said: "Because of the pandemic, travelers value privacy and safety more than ever. Given the limited opportunities to travel abroad now, we see more opportunities for RVs in the domestic market."

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