China’s market feels muscle of first tourism law

 

Tourists of a touring group for Russia pose before departure at the Baiyun International 

Airport in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong Province, on September 25, 2013.   

Photo by Liu Dawei

 

Tourists of a touring group for China’s Taiwan pose before departure at the Baiyun

International Airport in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong Province, on September 22,

2013. China’s first tourism law will come into effect on October 1. The new law bans the

rampant practice of “zero- or negative-fare tours” in the country, which refers to tour

services sold by travel agents at or below cost in order to attract travelers, who are later

forced to purchase goods or tip agents during their tours.   Photo by Liu Dawei  


 

 

 

China’s market 

feels muscle of first tourism law

 

 

By Yang Hui, Kong Xiangxin and Lu Chang

 

Experienced traveler Liu Qiang has scrapped his plan to go to Hong Kong because of what he sees as obsenely high prices during the upcoming National Day holiday week.

“The cost of a four-day package tour to Hong Kong was about 2,500 yuan (around 400 U.S. dollars) previously, but it is as much as 5,000 yuan during the holiday,” said Liu, 27, who works for an Internet company in Beijing.

The bad news for people like Liu is that both package and individual tour prices are expected to skyrocket from October 1 when China’s first tourism law comes into force.

These price rises are, in a large part, because of the law, but they are certain to unleash a torrent of gripes and acrimony in an already complaint-riddled industry. The hope is that the new regulations will help the industry to regulate iteslf in the long run.

The law includes provisions to counter the practice of zero, or even negative, fare tours. These are tours sold at or below cost price to lure ingenuous travelers who are then forced to purchase goods or tip guides while on holiday.

Travel agencies will be prevented from selling services at unreasonably low prices, or to profit by arrangements with designated stores. Travellers will not be obliged to accept any paid extras other than those specifically mentioned in contracts.

For time immemorial tour guides and travel agencies have been suspected of sharing profits with owners of stores, of taking commissions and kickbacks, but this will be illegal as of October.

“The domestic travel agency arena is a very competitive one. It’s hard for travel agents to survive through low-price services alone,” said Li Guang, general manager of the compliance office of the China Youth Travel Service (CYTS), one of China’s leading travel agencies.

The law also address the problems of unfair competition and wanton price hikes which have bedevilled the travel industry for years and exasperate the public.

“These are deep-rooted problems which attract a lot of complaints. The the key to fixing these problems lies in strict implementation of the law,” said Li Xinjian, a professor with the tourism management department in Beijing International Studies University.

Tourism insiders argue that the new round of price rises shows China’s travel market returning to normal.

“Price wars were vicious in the past, while the recent rises are a sort of reasonable return to fair competition,” said Wang Yanqi, director of the Research Center of Leisure Economy of China.

China’s domestic travel market is the world’s largest. Domestic tours totalled 2.96 billion in 2012, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

“The new law is not to impose restrictions on tourism shopping, but to target guides or agencies charging hidden commissions,” said to Li Guang.

There are also calls for strict supervision of prices at popular locations.

“If prices were at normal levels in tourist attractions, there would be less scope for illegalities such as forced purchases and outrageous commissions,” Wang Qiyan added.  

 

 

People browse through tourism information at a travel agent in Guangzhou, south China’s

Guangdong Province, on September 28, 2013.   Photo by Liu Dawei 

 

A woman views tour prices at a travel agency in Guangzhou, south China’s Guangdong

Province, on September 28, 2013.   Photo by Liu Dawei 

 

 

 

China to upgrade tourism industry

 

By Zhong Qun, Weng Ye, Zhang Jie and Wang Wen

 

He Yuhan feels both happy and disappointed while visiting Detian Waterfall on the China-Vietnam border, eleven years after her first visit. Back in 2002, the then 15-year-old girl traveled from Beijing to admire the breath-taking waterfall.

Located in Daxin County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, it is the biggest cross-border waterfall in Asia.

But the scenic area has not improved over the decade-long period, according to He, who thinks the local tourism industry is poor.

It took her more than three hours by bus to reach the destination after she arrived in Nanning, Guangxi’s regional capital. It is exactly what happened a decade ago.

Adding to her disappointment was a lack of facilities such as restaurants and good resting areas, where the only visible change was retailers selling Vietnamese perfume.

“I could not find a good place to rest after more than two hours of walking and I had to go back to Daxin county to have supper, which is far from the scenic area,” He said.

A Daxin government official, who did not want to be named, said the infrastructure for the county’s tourism industry is failing to meet demand due to an under-developed economy and a lack of comprehensive management in the sector.

“Many tourists traveling on their own have to rent chartered buses in groups with ridiculously high prices to get to Detian Waterfall,” said the official.

Li Yanqin, associate professor with the School of Management of Minzu University of China, said Daxin’s problems are quite common, with many cities and scenic areas struggling to upgrade their tourism industry.

“Many places in China have not fully developed their tourism resources, which makes them less competitive among other counties and regions in the world,” said Li.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS

 

Li said many places suffer from pollution and damage to cultural relics, caused by nature and mismanagement. “And in turn the problems are scaring tourists away,” said Li.

In April, two days of gales resulted in almost 60 tonnes of garbage ending up onshore at Silver Beach, dubbed the country’s No.1 beach, in southern China’s coastal city of Beihai in Guangxi.

Alongside natural waste such as seashells, seaweed and dead crabs, rubbish dotted the site, turning the beach into a land of garbage.

Plastic bags, beer bottles, shattered glass and bamboo sticks used for barbecues were piled up in the middle and eastern areas of the beach because of southwestern monsoons. Local managers were left helpless.

But rubbish is just part of a broader picture.

Last year alone, an estimated 1,800 tonnes of garbage was found on the beach, according to Yin Fengzhang, environment management director with the Management Office of Beihai Silver Beach Tourist Area.

The local administration committee had garbage collectors cleaning the beach everyday. But the rubbish just kept coming, which tarnished the image of the city.

Beihai, however, is the epitome of many Chinese coastal cities struggling with similar problems, said Chen Changrong, director of the Policy, Regulation and Planning Section of Beihai’s Oceanic Administration Bureau, who boasts 25 years of experience on maritime issues.

The country’s 2012 report on maritime environment quality shows that floating chunks of rubbish on supervised waters off coastal cities averaged 17 pieces per kilometer in 2011, and the number more than doubled to 37 in 2012.

 

CHAOTIC MARKET

 

Tourist numbers are on the increase in China. Official figures showed that 3 billion tourists visited the country last year and the industry was worth 2.3 trillion yuan (376 billion U.S dollars), a year-on-year rise of 12 percent and 17.6 percent respectively.

The increasing tourist numbers that swarm scenic spots during China’s golden week holidays are putting pressure on cities.

What adds fuel to the flames is that “black tour guides,” or those that are disqualified, are rampant in many cities, leading to complaints from visitors.

Also, vandalism by tourists has generated headlines, making other visitors’ experiences unpleasant.

To upgrade the tourism industry in various locations in China, it is necessary to change the situation where revenue is mainly generated based on ticket sales, said Fu Shuaixiong, a tourism economy expert from Peking University.

“It is urgent to develop tourism-related industries rather than just depending on tickets, a low-level and old way of generating revenue, which is still in popular practice in many scenic spots in China,” Fu said.

He said that accommodation, catering and recreation projects should be strengthened so that even if ticket prices are lowered, the various projects will actually attract more tourists and contribute more to higher profits, which will in turn create a sound tourism economy.

 

BRAND BUILDING

 

Fu added that it is essential for cities to build up their brands, which he calls the “core” and the “soul” to take the industry to the next level.

Many places in China, such as southwestern Yunnan and northern Shanxi provinces, have already realized the importance of owning a unique brand and have begun brand-building, which includes image, competitiveness, culture and scenic attraction, Fu said, adding that other provinces and regions should follow suit.

“It will take joint efforts of various departments to realize resource maximization and promotion, which will enhance the whole image of the tourism industry and therefore attract more visitors,” he said.

 

TOURISM LAW

 

The fast-growing but flawed industry prompted the country to promulgate a tourism law.

The nation’s first tourism law will be fully implemented on Oct. 1, which experts say will help upgrade the industry, as it will help to rectify unruly behavior among both agencies and tourists. The law will protect the rights of tourists and enforce safety measures at scenic sites.

Li Yanqin said many agencies have promised to get rid of unreasonable elements in tourism, such as forced shopping and receiving kickbacks.

“With clear items regarding tourists, tourism agencies as well as scenic areas, the law will definitely help the sound development of the industry in China,” Li said.

 

 

 

 

Tourism to be 

leading industry

along Silk Road

 

By Li Laifang and Feng Guo

 

Tourism will become one of the leading industries along the Silk Road economic belt, which covers western China, central Asia and Europe, according to officials and experts.

The road has great charm and tourism will be a leading industry for the Silk Road economic belt, said Pavlos Geroulanos, former Greek tourism and culture minister.

But some barriers need to be overcome first. It will be very convenient if more than 20 countries along the Silk Road have the E-visa service, Geroulanos said at a tourism conference held during the Euro-Asia Economic Forum which ended on Saturday in Xi’an, capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

During his visit to Kazakhstan in early September, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the proposal of a Silk Road economic belt to deepen cooperation and make economic ties closer among European and Asian nations.

The Silk Road refers to the land trade route opened when Zhang Qian was sent west on a diplomatic mission more than 2,000 years ago. Starting from the old city Chang’an, known today as Xi’an, the ancient road ran through northwest China’s Gansu Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Central and Western Asia, before reaching the Mediterranean.

Xi’an, the start of the ancient road, should take the lead in tourism development, said Pan Qiuling, head of the Tourism School at Xi’an International Studies University.

Xi’an served as the capital of more than ten dynasties in ancient China, including the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) and the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The city boasts world-famous tourism sites such as the Museum of Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses.

In the first half of this year, 43.6 million tourists visited Xi’an, including 530,000 from overseas.

Along the Silk Road economic belt, there are rich tourism resources, including many heritage sites and landscapes in Central Asia, said Zhang Yongke, head of the Xi’an Tourism Administration.

Xi’an and other cities along the route should strengthen exchange and cooperation in tourism, he said.

Mutual exchanges can help solve problems in transport, communication and visa services, the official added.

Xi’an can take the initiative and jointly set up a Silk Road tourism cooperation organization with other regions to make the road an attractive tourism brand, proposed Chen Qingliang, deputy head of the Shaanxi Provincial Tourism Administration.

Regional cooperation is needed for the development and international marketing of Silk Road tourism products, according to experts.

Liubava Moreva, a programme specialist for culture of UNESCO, said indigenous culture and heritage sites should be protected for sustainable tourism development.

China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have been jointly working on inscribing several sections of the Silk Road in the three countries on the UNESCO world heritage list, to better protect the heritage of mankind, according to Yang Zhongwu, head of the Shaanxi Provincial Tourism Administration.  

 

 

 

 

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