Pollution problems and weak global economy hits tourism figures of Beijing

Published on : Monday, January 13, 2014

Beijing-to-reduceInbound tourism in Beijing is facing a steep fall for the last two calendar years. In 2013, Beijing faced an unexpected fall of 10.3 percent, according to tourism officials. From January to November, the city recorded 4.2 million visitors, the Beijing Tourism Development Commission reported.

The Tourism Development Commission blamed the weak global economy and a strong Yuan, and the city’s ongoing pollution problems. The effect of a 72-hour visa waiver for transit passengers also failed to meet expectations, industry insiders said.

China’s inbound tourism market has been stagnant in recent years, as tourists to the nation, many of whom are from Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States, were shunted to other Asian destinations, including Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. These strong competitors have experienced fast growth in recent years, said Dai Bin, director of the China Tourism Academy.

Compared with other destinations, he said, Beijing is a “struggling startup” when it comes to the tourism business. One important step that experts say needs to be taken is to make the market more attractive to Chinese travel agencies.

Yang Xiufang, head of international cooperation for China Swan International Tours, said few Beijing agencies have started to offer two- or three-day packages for passengers who take advantage of the visa waiver because they see little opportunity for profit. “Most companies are focused on outbound tourism, as more Chinese are traveling abroad due to the strong yuan,” he said.

The city also lacks appeal due to its ongoing battle with pollution, said another industry insider who did not want to be identified. “Considering the market (for transit passengers) is unscheduled and small, most agencies would rather invest in domestic and outbound tourism, which is relatively easy money,” he said. A common response among experts was the call for better cooperation between travel agencies, airlines and the Beijing airport to attract tourists.

In August, Lu Yong, then director of the Beijing Tourism Development Commission, said his authority would work to build an alliance between Beijing Capital International Airport and Air China to deliver ticket discounts.

However, industry insiders say this has failed to materialize. So too has a much-talked-about plan for a pilot duty-free shopping haven near Yabao Road, a retail hub for many foreign traders, a year after it was proposed. Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy’s International Tourism Development Institute, said cheaper airfares is the key to attracting more transit passengers.

Based on research showing that most people passing through Beijing Capital International Airport would take advantage of the waiver, Wang Yue, deputy director of the authority, said earlier that the policy was expected to attract 20,000 visitors in the first year.

However, the Beijing General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection said the number was just 14,000.Beijing is not the only city experiencing a decline. Statistics from the China National Tourism Administration show inbound tourism reached 118.2 million visits from January to November, a 2.47 percent year-on-year decrease.

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