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Source: www.asiaecon.org |

TOURISM TO CHINA FALLS IN 2008


In 2008, Tourism in China dropped by 2% in what was supposed to be a pinnacle year for the industry. According to the Beijing tourism bureau, Beijing received only 389,000 foreign tourists in August, the month when the Olympic Games took place, including travelers from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. This fell short of the 500,000 visitors originally expected. In fact, it has been the first decline in visitor numbers since 2003, when all Asia suffered the fallout from the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The decline in Chinese tourism has been unexpected, and there have been plenty of reasons inbound tourism has decreased this year.


In 2008, Tourism in China dropped by 2% in what was supposed to be a pinnacle year for the industry. According to the Beijing tourism bureau, Beijing received only 389,000 foreign tourists in August, the month when the Olympic Games took place, including travelers from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. This fell short of the 500,000 visitors originally expected. In fact, it has been the first decline in visitor numbers since 2003, when all Asia suffered the fallout from the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The decline in Chinese tourism has been unexpected, and there have been plenty of reasons inbound tourism has decreased this year.

Of course, the main cause of the decrease in tourism in China is the global financial crisis. With spending power going down in the West, people are deferring non-essential business travel and not spending as much money on leisure holidays. They may take shorter holidays to nearby destinations or take just one trip instead of several in a year. Although authorities tried to use the Beijing Olympics to boost the industry, the global downturn has hindered its plan. It has to be taken into account that for the first time in the last three decades, the three biggest foreign visitors to China -USA, Europe and Japan- were all hit hard by the crisis. In fact, all major inbound source markets, except for Hong Kong and Russia, plummeted last year amid the economic downturn. Besides, the Olympics led to an increase in prices for hotels and services, leaving most regular tourists and business travelers away from the country as well.

Analysts say increased security measures put in place for the Beijing Olympics may also have had an impact. The Chinese Government feared protests around the Olympics could affect the image of China in the international community. So, authorities made visa procedures more strict in an effort to weed out potential troublemakers such as foreign activists and critics of China’s human rights. This also kept out many tourist that were not willing to go through all the visa process.

Natural disasters in 2008 have also impacted the tourism growth in China. The snow storms that took placed in eastern and central China wreaked havoc on traffic throughout the country, creating gigantic passenger backups, generating accidents, and leaving dozens people dead. In many areas, the snow accumulation was described as the heaviest in five decades. The Sichuan earthquake also had a negative effect in the Chinese inbound tourism. The earthquake that hit the Sichuan Province was the nineteenth deadliest earthquake of all time, leaving 90,000 people dead or missing. Sichuan is a major tourist attraction for international visitors and has been off-limits to tourists from May. Just now, the region is beginning to accept tourists although rebuilding its infrastructure and tourist resources are still needed.

In addition, the riots in Tibet and subsequent demonstrations against China during the Olympic torch relay also affected the tourism in China to a certain extent. The anti-China protesters drew attention of the public, hurting the China’s image internationally before the Beijing Summer Olympics. It has to be taken into account that the Tibetan problem has raised so much awareness in the West countries in the last years.

The milk scandal which broke in mid-September, a month after the Olympics, led again to a negative image of China. Tourists were fearing of visiting China due to the quality standards of its dairy products.

Although it has been a very tough year in terms of tourism for China despite the Olympics, the Chinese have a fabulous ability to focus on the good and look forward to a bright future. In fact, the prospects of the Chinese tourism industry are excellent, except for 2009 because of the consequences of the global financial meltdown. The Chinese tourism industry is expected to generate about $80 billion of revenue in 2009 but it is forecast to reach $277 billion by 2017. The World Tourism Organization expects China to eclipse France and become the #1 travel destination in the world by 2014.

 

Source: www.AsiaEcon.org

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Source: www.asiaecon.org |


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