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County travel craze sparks tourism market potential

More people seeking holidays at quieter, low-key destinations, experts say

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-21 07:08

Tourists visit the Wooden Tower in Yingxian county, Shanxi province, on May 4. CHEN YAN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Untapped potential

The country boasts more than 2,800 county-level administration zones, according to a 2023 national research report on the high-quality development of such tourism. The research was conducted by the National County-Level Tourism Research Project Team in Beijing.

The study noted that only 79 counties reported tourism revenue exceeding 10 billion yuan and total tourist arrivals of over 10 million. Counties with tourism revenue below 3 billion yuan accounted for 65.86 percent of the total.

The statistics indicate the huge untapped potential of tourism in counties and other lower-tier markets, experts said.

Wang Yalei, an analyst from Trip.com Group's research center, said the potential for tourism growth in those lower-tier markets is yet to be released, as more travelers start to seek out less crowded sites and better affordability.

"Compared with the high accommodation and dining expenses in first and second-tier cities during holidays, those (lower-tier) markets also offer better value for money," Wang said.

Data from Trip.com Group showed that during the May Day holiday, the average daily hotel price in county-level markets was only half of that in popular first and second-tier cities.

The May Day holiday saw strong public demand for niche experiences, particularly in the countryside, instead of for crowded attractions, the travel agency said.

Zhejiang province's Anji and Tonglu, and Sichuan province's Dujiangyan were among the 10 most popular county-level destinations, with tourism orders increasing by 36 percent on average during the May Day holiday, Trip.com said.

"From the demand side, travelers' tendency to avoid crowds is becoming increasingly more apparent, leading to a growing number of them shifting from first and second-tier central cities toward third and fourth-tier cities, and even counties. This trend is expected to become more common in the future," Wang said.

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