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As China’s travel chill deepens, tourist-starved regions struggle to get by -Breaking

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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: At the Volcano No. 1, people pose in spacesuits and carry flags from China. 6 photos of the Ulan Hada volcano cluster near Ulanqab (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region), China, October 4, 2021 REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawl

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Ryan Woo and Ellen Zhang

BEIJING, (Reuters) – As China’s tourism sector collapses, provinces in desperate need of funds are offering tax breaks, lowering ticket prices and begging the locals for help to save their tourist incomes. This is a sector which employs tens or millions.

Official data indicates that the slump in tourism, which encompasses travel, accommodation, and catering, has continued into 2022 due to wider COVID-related restrictions on inter-province traveling, lockdowns, and endless mass testing.

Provinces that depend on tourism growth like Yunnan or Hainan are especially affected.

In recent months, Omicron’s variant has taken hold. The industry is now in its most dire state since the pandemic. It contributed 11.05% to China’s gross domestic products in 2019, and was responsible for nearly 80 million jobs (or 10%) in China.

Tian Yun is a former state economist and economic planner agency. He said that he expects inter-province travel to resume in the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday.

Tian stated that if inter-province travel is banned at the Dragon Boat Festival this year, tourism will suffer and so will related consumption.

He said that a continued tourism freeze could reduce China’s growth of at least 0.5% in 2022. According to the government, this year’s growth goal is 5.5%.

DETERRENCE

Tourism is discouraged due to drastic reductions in passenger flights or sudden cancellations.

VariFlight reports that domestic flights are now just slightly more than 35,000 per week, which is the lowest figure since 2000.

Official data show that tourists from China’s other provinces made up just 5%, despite the restrictions on travel, during the Tomb Sweeping holidays in April.

Hohhot was the capital of Inner Mongolia’s northern Chinese region. It is known for its lush grasslands and has seen tourist visits drop half off during this holiday. Tourism revenue fell 53.5%.

The southern island province Hainan was also not left out, often referred to as China’s Hawaii due to its balmy year-round weather.

According to official statistics, 99.4% of the tourist visits to Sanya in Hainan fell during this holiday. The average hotel occupancy rate in Sanya was 12.6%.

Authorities had to implement tax cuts for travel firms even in Yunnan province. Leisure travel made up 90% of Yunnan’s service sector in 2019.

On Friday, 10,000,000 consumption vouchers were distributed by the charming city of Dali in Yunnan. This is to lure tourists. Also, prices of tickets for scenic spots were reduced.

RELY ON LOCALS

The number of tourists visiting Ningxia was 21.1% higher than it was a year ago during the Tomb Sweeping holiday.

Ningxia, a country that is slightly smaller than Ireland has managed to lure its local population of around 7.2 million people with tickets to over 60 picturesque spots at 199 Yuan ($31), which represents a huge discount from normal prices and nearly 3,000 Yuan. 

The three-day holiday saw a higher number of visitors, but revenue fell 16.3%.

Gu Xuebo told Reuters that local people have their cars and are able to drive themselves to the scenic places. Gu Xuebo is a Ningxia guide and driver. Local people are not in demand of accommodation or food.

Gu claimed that the minivan, which seats 14, had been stored in his garage since August. His travel agency was then banned from servicing tourists from other provinces a few months later. Gu had only two clients in the last year. 

Gu who is a driver for ride-hailing service said, “Several drivers that had worked with us for six to seven years” 

Bookers at Desert Star Hotel, Ningxia’s Shapotou Senic Zone have fallen 70% compared to a year ago.

Zhang, a hotel manager said that tourists from other regions cannot travel here so they have to rely upon local tourists. It’s better to have one than none.

($1 = 6.3732 renminbi)

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