Tourism mar­ket still has great deal of catch­ing up to do

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By ZHONGNAN zhongnan@chi­nadaily. com.cn

Re­cently, while on hol­i­day in Ph­nom Penh, Cam­bo­dia, I was asked if I was in­ter­ested in fir­ing a Rus­sian-made rocket-pro­pelled grenade for $500 at a lo­cal shoot­ing range.

Even though the price for shoot­ing an RPG was surely ne­go­tiable, my an­swer­wasa firm no. I pre­ferred fir­ing an AK47 with six car­tridges for $120, nice and easy.

Last year, I spent $320 in a shoot­ing range in Jack­sonville, Florida, where I tried fiveUSNavy Seal guns.

I was not the only Chi­nese tourist to have been pam­pered abroad. More wealthy trav­el­ers may look for­ward to choices in­clud­ing hol­i­days at well-known vine­yards, a he­li­copter jour­ney to the top of a snowy moun­tain in­NewZealand and seek­ing the North­ern Lights in Nor­way.

While both do­mes­tic and for­eign air­lines have de­ployed big­ger air­craft for their ser­vices from China to global des­ti­na­tions, travel agen­cies from many coun­tries in­clud­ing Ja­pan and Saudi Arabia have also set up shops in­Chi­nese cities to ped­dle their wares.

Sadly, do­mes­tic tourism still lags in both the va­ri­ety of of­fer­ings and qual­ity of ser­vices.

For ex­am­ple, not long ago, my friend and I were tricked by a small travel firm, prob­a­bly un­li­censed, in Pingyao, an an­cient city in Shanxi prov­ince.

Dur­ing the one-day trip, our travel guide was changed twice. What they truly cared was how much we spent in each shop they took us to.

What also shocked me was that they ex­pected us to pay their lunch bills at a se­lected restau­rant, with each guide claim­ing: “If I am hun­gry, I won’t have enough strength to in­tro­duce the city his­tory and show you around this af­ter­noon”.

With both good and bad ex­pe­ri­ences, I can­not stop think­ing why the hol­i­dayan­dleisure­mar­kets in­many parts of China still haven’t de­vel­oped, and the gap be­tween them andWestern coun­tries or South­east Asia is so dis­tinct.

For in­stance, many gi­ant ho­tels in LasVe­gas have al­ready added tooth­brushes, ket­tles and slip­pers in guest rooms for Chi­nese tourists, as well as a but­ler ser­vice and Chi­ne­ses­peak­ing in­struc­tors to teach them how to play var­i­ous casino games. With a phone call from the room, a $430 Fer­rari ride on a pro­fes­sional track out­side Las Ve­gas can also be ar­ranged.

Ac­tion has also been taken in China, as it aims to en­cour­age more global com­pa­nies to in­vest in the coun­try’s ser­vice sec­tor to as­sist in the de­vel­op­ment of supply-side re­forms.

Ea­ger to en­hance the earn­ing abil­ity in its vast tourist mar­kets, China’s first batch of home­made lux­ury cruise ves­sels will be built at a ship­yard in Shang­hai and the first is ex­pected to set sail in 2022.

Many prov­inces, such asHei­longjiang and Zhe­jiang, and the Guangxi Zhuang au­tonomous re­gion have also started to launch cam­paigns to at­tract more do­mes­tic tourists through cul­ture vil­lages, and fish­ing and food tours.

Though some of these changes are pretty im­pres­sive, I think it is crit­i­cal to avoid stereo­types, be­cause both the do­mes­tic and out­bound tourist mar­kets have become more so­phis­ti­cated and seg­mented.

China doesn’t lack amaz­ing places with gor­geous scenery or land fea­tures.

It would be prac­ti­cal to de­velop spe­cial in­ter­est tourism, in­volv­ing cuisines, art, health­care, the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and ecol­ogy across the coun­try.

Per­son­ally, I won’t go too far. I cer­tainly would not spend a night among sharks in an un­der­wa­ter struc­ture in­stalled in a Euro­pean aquar­ium or hunt­ing ze­bras in Africa in 2017. But tak­ing a cruise trip from Sanya to Yon­gle Is­land, part of the Xisha Is­lands in Hainan prov­ince, would be nice.

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