Holiday tourism demand reveals weal and woe

Updated: 2012-10-08 09:59


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JINAN -- The holiday tour spree has indicated China's consumption potential but analysts have warned long-lasting economic incentives remain absent to sustain the world's second biggest economy.

Statistics from the Office of the National Holiday Tourism Inter-Ministerial Coordination Meeting showed that the country's 119 centrally-monitored scenic spots all reported double-digit growth in both the number of tourists and revenue from Oct 1-6.

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At the peak day of Oct 3, these spots received 6.043 million tourists, up 30.64 percentage points from a year earlier, and raked in 3.4 billion yuan ($539 million), up 36.64 percentage points from the holiday period in 2011.

The increments have overshot market expectations. China Tourism Academy forecasted a rise of 24 percent in both the number of tourists and tourism revenue to 362 million people and 180 billion yuan respectively.

Zhang Weiguo, director of the Economic Institute of the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences, said these better-than-expected tourism figures revealed the spending power of Chinese consumers.

"An eight-day super-long holiday, first-time exemption of highway tolls and a mark-down in the ticket price of many scenic spots to woo visitors spurred Chinese people's tourism passion," he said.

To attract tourists, more than 150 well-known scenic spots cut their ticket prices by 30 percent on average, official statistics showed.

The influx of tourists, however, went beyond the receiving capacity of many tourist attractions.

In Taishan Mountain, a World Heritage site where ancient Chinese emperors used to pray, ticket booths had to be temporarily closed to curb the traffic.

Li Tiegang, deputy dean of the Economic Institute of Shandong University, warned that rising tourism demand could be contained again if traveling inconvenience and poor services at scenic spots failed to catch up.

The most infuriating case that sparked public worry about safety involved an incident at Huashan Mountain in Huayin city of Northwest China's Shaanxi province.

Dong Liwen and his wife Wang Jiao, both from Inner Mongolia autonomous region were stabbed nine times and twice respectively by two local villagers. They turned violent after arguing with Dong while waiting in line at a ticket office.

The management committee of Huashan Mountain said staff, including security guards, knew no details of the incident. As a result, many Chinese were outraged and expressed their opinions on the Internet.

"Along with the rise in income, people will naturally wish to spend more time traveling. A serious challenge facing the government and the tourism industry is how to manage and satisfy such a growing demand," said Li Tiegang.

Zhang Weiguo said that holiday travel and the service industry were significant to China's economic restructuring and sustainable growth, especially when manufacturing was being weighed down by rising costs and sluggish external demand.

"The linchpin to capitalize on Chinese people's tourism passion is to implement the policy of paid leave and secure a mild and long-lasting incentive from the sightseeing demand," said Zhang.