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Better tours, happier holiday

By XIE TING/JIANG YIYI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-07 07:54


After a booming summer season, the tourism market has seen an upsurge on both the supply and demand sides, especially because the coinciding of Mid-Autumn Festival and the National Day resulted in an "eight-day Golden Week" holiday.

According to the latest official figures, holiday travel rose 71.3 percent this year from last and 4.1 percent from pre-pandemic 2019 levels to 826 million trips. Domestic tourism revenue for the holiday period reached 753 billion yuan ($103.14 billion), up 129.5 percent from last year and 1.5 percent from 2019 levels, Xinhua said.

The following features marked the eight-day holiday.

First, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism implemented multiple measures to enhance the quality of cultural and tourism products before the holiday, thereby accelerating the recovery of the cultural and tourism industry. The measures include a national list of premium tourism performances, which allows tourists to "travel along with the shows".

The ministry also launched products on the theme of family reunion. For the benefit of businesses and the public, it has extended financial support for "cultural and tourism consumption action plan" in a hundred cities and hundred districts which provides consumer subsidies, ticket discounts and promotes the "colorful China, festive delights" series of activities.

Second, the tourism industry saw an explosive upsurge during the eight-day holiday. The railways, before the holiday, said they expected to record about 190 million passenger trips. The airlines, on the other hand, expected more than 21 million passenger trips during the holiday.

And Ctrip reported more than a fourfold increase in domestic hotel searches compared with the same period in 2022 and 120 percent more than the 2019 holiday season. Also, long-distance travel and family trips remained popular choices while cultural performances and museums drew more young tourists.

Third, the relaxation of outbound travel has created favorable conditions for the recovery of the foreign tourism sector. In August, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced the resumption of outbound group tourism to 78 countries, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States, raising the total number of such countries to 138.

Fourth, many local cultural and tourism authorities and scenic spots have introduced tourism products and discounts to attract more tourists. Examples include Jingdezhen's "Autumn in Jingdezhen" series in Jiangxi province and "Happy Travel" in Heilongjiang province.

Yet the surge in the tourism market is both a boon and a challenge for tourist spots. Overcrowding in scenic spots, difficulty in obtaining tickets for certain attractions and museums, potential risks, and subpar tourism services are still prevalent. To address these challenges, we propose the following:

It is important to have a clear idea of the number of people likely to visit a certain tourist destination on any given day, and making foolproof arrangements to manage crowds. By leveraging digital tools and harnessing the power of data, the tourist spots can work out time slots and issue only a certain number of tickets for that period to better manage tourist inflow.

The tourist spots should also consider building multiple entrance and exit pathways within the facility in order to prevent excessive crowding. And places that draw huge number of visitors should hire trained personnel to control the crowds.

To enhance visitors' experience, tourist spots should consider turning nearby open spaces into parking lots during peak tourism seasons, and to prevent congestion, they should demarcate separate parking zones for buses and private vehicles.

Besides, travel agencies and tourist spots need to be flexible to cater to tourists' needs. By adopting new technologies, the tourism industry can streamline ticketing channels for tourist attractions and museums, simplify the booking process, and make the reservation procedure more convenient. As for special groups such as schoolchildren, the elderly and people with disabilities, the tourist spots should offer offline ticket purchasing options.

Tourist spots should also share real-time visitor flow data, and consider extending the opening hours by opening earlier or closing later than scheduled to accommodate the large flow of tourists, and introduce nighttime tour options to meet the diverse needs of tourists.

Moreover, tourist spots and the tourism industry as a whole should adopt a safety-oriented development approach by eliminating risks at tourist destinations. With a surge in visitors during peak tourism seasons, the potential for risks increases. Hence, all tourist spots should identify vulnerable areas and work out emergency plans, conduct a thorough safety assessment of internal facilities, especially amusement park equipment, cable cars, slides and rafting gear, as well as shuttle vehicles, buildings, and other utilities.

Most of all, they should ensure there are enough firefighting equipment and lifebuoys in perfect working condition, and keep emergency escape channels open and free of clutter. They should also have a plan and keep all essential equipment ready to deal with extreme weather events such as heavy rain and strong winds, and other natural disasters.

The authorities, on their part, should tighten market supervision to protect the legitimate rights and interests of tourists, and local governments need to strengthen regulatory oversight of tourism companies and encourage them to respect business ethics, without resorting to price gouging, offering low-cost tours which increase risks, forced shopping or exploitation of tourists. And they should ensure tourists can easily access complaint channels and their grievances are promptly addressed.

As people's confidence in the tourism industry grows, industry stakeholders should minutely analyze the reasons for market resurgence, and find ways to keep attracting more and more visitors, even the same visitors multiple times. For that, they have to satisfy visitors, which is important also to facilitate the long-term, high-quality growth of the tourism industry.

Xie Ting is an associate professor of tourism studies at the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University; and Jiang Yiyi is the deputy head of the same school. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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