More in­no­va­tion needed to pro­mote the ‘coun­try of cul­ture’

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By AL­FRED ROMANN

For China Daily

China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive could drive the de­vel­op­ment of the tourism industry as long as stake­hold­ers step up fa­cil­i­ties, ex­per­tise and in­vest­ment.

The ini­tia­tive aims to re­vive an­cient trade routes be­tween China and the West with the cre­ation of the land­based Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt and oceanic 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road.

Industry stake­hold­ers in Ma­cao for the Global Tourism Econ­omy Fo­rum con­sid­ered the im­por­tance of cul­tural tourism.

“In China, we al­ways call our­selves a coun­try of cul­ture,” said Pe­ter Wong, chair­man of MK Cor­po­ra­tion. “But con­ser­va­tion of our cul­tural relics was not done prop­erly.”

Through­out China’s travel and tourism industry, there is a need for much more in­vest­ment in fa­cil­i­ties and peo­ple. Such in­vest­ment will make it pos­si­ble for China to con­tinue to emerge as one of the most im­por­tant travel and tourism mar­kets.

“We be­lieve that China is go­ing to be­come one of the largest tourism mar­kets in the world and it is im­por­tant for the Chi­nese (peo­ple) to par­tic­i­pate in this trans­for­ma­tion,” said Wang Ping, chair­man of the China Cham­ber of Tourism.

“The main mes­sage was for county-level of­fi­cials to change the tourism en­vi­ron­ment. The ini­tia­tive was very suc­cess­ful.”

While China has a lot of po­ten­tial to de­velop its tourism industry, it lacks resources like top-rated fa­cil­i­ties and enough trained pro­fes­sion­als. It is im­por­tant to “change this sta­tus quo”, Wang said.

One way to do this might be to lever­age tech­nol­ogy and find in­no­va­tive ap­proaches to drive tourism.

The In­ter­net has emerged as a pow­er­ful driver of tourism, said Wu Zhaolan, vice-pres­i­dent of the Sun­ing Uni­ver­sal Group.

On­line book­ings for travel and trans­porta­tion have emerged as a pow­er­ful driver of tourism, and com­ple­ment tra­di­tional tourism ac­tiv­i­ties.

“With smart­phones and PCs, peo­ple are used to liv­ing with the In­ter­net and book­ing prod­ucts on­line,” said Wu.

Tourism must work with the In­ter­net. On­line plat­forms should ex­ist to help tourists find pack­ages for the right price and guar­an­tee those prices.

The abil­ity to book a trip or a ho­tel is only the be­gin­ning of the tourist ex­pe­ri­ence. Des­ti­na­tions have to pro­vide the ser­vices needed to keep tourists com­ing back. Mar­ket­ing and prom­ises are all well and good, but they only work when backed by a sub­stan­tive industry.

“Tourism is not re­ally about trav­el­ing. It is about self­dis­cov­ery,” said John­son Jia Yun­feng, CEO of mar­ket­ing con­sul­tancy D&J Global Communications.

Tourism is a way to get away from day-to-day life. The de­ci­sion to make is where to go and what to see. Ac­cord­ing to Jia, mar­ket­ing is im­por­tant to keep the most in­ter­est­ing des­ti­na­tions con­stantly in the minds of trav­el­ers.

The travel and tourism industry is no dif­fer­ent from other in­dus­tries. To at­tract more cus­tomers, it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand what they want and to pro­vide it, he said.

“What is mar­ket­ing, af­ter all?” asked Jia, adding: “It is to dif­fer­en­ti­ate your prod­ucts and ser­vices and cre­ate an emo­tional re­sponse in the minds of your cus­tomers.”

In­fras­truc­ture is an im­por­tant fac­tor. In­for­ma­tion can be of­ten hard to find, par­tic­u­larly for tourists. Ser­vices can also be spotty, and this is key be­cause tourists that do not re­ceive good ser­vice are not likely to come back.

“You need to have your high­end po­si­tion­ing. It is not just about a slo­gan, you need to have your prod­ucts,” said Jia. “You need to have your whole industry.”

With­out ad­e­quate in­fras­truc­ture, prod­ucts and an industry, mar­ket­ing will not be use­ful. The im­pact of cul­ture stretches into the de­tails of the needs of the travel and tourism industry, down to the chairs for peo­ple to sit and the beds in which they sleep.

Fur­ni­ture, said Ding Zuo­hong, a mem­ber of the stand­ing com­mit­tee of the All-China Fed­er­a­tion of Industry and Com­merce, is at the heart of every­thing.

“Many of our busi­nesses cover ho­tels,” said Ding, who is also the chair­man of Yuex­ing Group, a large fur­ni­ture maker. “Good taste is re­flected in our fur­ni­ture.”

Ji Xiaodong, vice-pres­i­dent and sec­re­tary gen­eral of the CCT, said: “There is a say­ing that one should read 10,000 books and travel 10,000 miles. Tourism is about trav­el­ing those 10,000 miles.”

Tourism is im­por­tant on a “spir­i­tual level”, Ji added.

“In this industry in China, there is a lack of qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als. The thresh­old of en­trance into the industry is not as high as, say, the fi­nance industry,” said Ji. “There is a lot we can do to bring in more qual­i­fied pro­fes­sion­als to the industry.”

Lit­er­a­ture and films have a great im­pact on the tourism industry, par­tic­u­larly from a cul­tural level.

At the same

time, a new gen­er­a­tion of trav­el­ers has dif­fer­ent tastes and re­quire­ments that should be taken into ac­count when de­vel­op­ing a tourism industry.

Tourism does pose risks to cul­ture and her­itage, said Bai Changhong, dean and pro­fes­sor at the Col­lege of Tourism and Ser­vice Man­age­ment at Tian­jin city’s Nankai Univer­sity. There are ex­am­ples of tourism hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on her­itage sites or even lo­cal cul­ture.

But the op­po­site is also true, as more tourism makes it pos­si­ble for peo­ple around the world to get greater ex­po­sure to a greater va­ri­ety of cul­tures. The right poli­cies make it pos­si­ble to ex­pand the tourism industry and pro­tect lo­cal cul­tures, said Bai.

“We want to see whether cul­ture can pro­mote the econ­omy,” he noted. “Can we con­sume cul­ture? And if we con­sume cul­ture, will the econ­omy de­stroy cul­ture?

“Some cul­tures can­not be ap­proached but there are some cul­tures that al­low lim­ited con­sump­tion.”

Bai said that much can be learned from Europe, be­cause coun­tries there are ex­pe­ri­enced at pro­tect­ing their cul­tural her­itage.

Pro­fes­sional man­age­ment is also needed to “lever­age cul­tural tourism and turn cul­tural tourism into some­thing use­ful for the preser­va­tion of cul­ture and the de­vel­op­ment of the econ­omy”, said Bai.

Ji of the CCT said that driv­ing cul­tural tourism re­quires the preser­va­tion of cul­tural sites and fa­cil­i­ties. Re­build­ing a cul­ture can be dif­fi­cult and, per­haps, not a good idea.

“Cul­ture must pro­vide some­thing that peo­ple can re­late to,” said Ji. “We need to have things to rep­re­sent cul­ture.”

Ul­ti­mately, said Wang of the CCT, “we should con­sider all the peo­ple around the world when de­vel­op­ing tourism prod­ucts … We need to think about how to re­duce prod­ucts when we de­velop tourism prod­ucts.”


The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive drives tourism de­vel­op­ment in Gansu prov­ince.

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