Healthy re­turns:

A re­cent expo in Bei­jing saw for­eign travel firms flock to tap China’s health tourism mar­ket, pro­vid­ing the in­dus­try with an ex­tra shot in the arm, Yang Feiyue re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WEEKEND LIFE - Con­tact the writer at yangfeiyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A re­cent expo in Bei­jing saw for­eign travel firms flock to tap China’s health tourism mar­ket, pro­vid­ing the in­dus­try with an ex­tra shot in the arm.

Ma­hen­der Thakur is rather en­joy­ing his time on an au­to­matic mas­sage bed at a med­i­cal expo in Bei­jing. “The rolling and push­ing mo­tion re­ally re­laxes my back,” says Thakur, a deputy gen­eral manager at Cox & Kings, an In­di­a­based provider of lux­ury hol­i­days and tai­lor-made tours.

Af­ter the mas­sage ses­sion, Thakur moves on to the other booths at the sec­ond Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Health Tourism Expo, which ran from Sept 7 to 9.

These booths showcase a va­ri­ety of health tourism prod­ucts and re­sources from more than 20 prov­inces and re­gions around China.

“I want to have a look around and then make some pur­chases,” Thakur says.

His com­pany cur­rently brings around 5,000 In­dian health tour vis­i­tors to China ev­ery year, and is look­ing to iden­tify more health tourism re­sources at the expo and show them to po­ten­tial cus­tomers in his home coun­try.

Thakur is one of many for­eign travel spe­cial­ists who are look­ing to de­velop their Chi­nese health tourism re­sources through the Bei­jing expo.

“We’ve seen 70 in­ter­na­tional buy­ers from 17 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, Bri­tain, France and Spain, at the expo,” says Wu Dan, a manager with Sunny In­ter­na­tional Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the or­ga­nizer be­hind the expo.

“Com­pared with other coun­tries, China has a spe­cial ad­van­tage in health tourism, as it’s rich in tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine re­sources,” Wu says.

Ex­hibitors at the expo range from gov­ern­ment-ac­cred­ited health tourism demon­stra­tion fa­cil­i­ties, to tourism man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions and med­i­cal in­sti­tutes.

“A con­sid­er­able num­ber of them have al­ready de­vel­oped ma­ture health tourism prod­ucts, and are ready to take in for­eign guests,” Wu adds.

The in­creas­ing pub­lic health aware­ness at home and fa­vor­able gov­ern­ment guide­lines on health tourism have given the do­mes­tic health tourism de­vel­op­ment a shot in the arm.

In 2016, five na­tional gov­ern­ment bod­ies, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion (now part of the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Tourism), the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion and the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine is­sued guide­lines on how health tourism should be pro­moted.

These guide­lines call for health tourism fa­cil­i­ties with dis­tinc­tive el­e­ments to be de­vel­oped by 2020. The gov­ern­ment has pledged to sup­port med­i­cal, health man­age­ment and leisure fa­cil­i­ties to de­velop health prod­ucts. Poli­cies have been put in place to boost in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture, pro­mote mar­ket­ing and cre­ate in­sur­ance prod­ucts to de­velop China’s health tourism in­dus­try.

The Sanya Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine Re­treat Cen­ter has been draw­ing an in­creas­ing num­ber of for­eign cus­tomers over the years.

The cen­ter of­fers var­i­ous TCM and re­lated skin care ex­pe­ri­ences and has re­ceived around 60 tourists from abroad on a daily ba­sis.

“Our guests come from var­i­ous parts of the world, in­clud­ing Rus­sia and Kaza­khstan,” says Tang Yi, a se­nior therapist with the cen­ter, which sits at the foot of a moun­tain.

“They’ve come to en­joy the beach, sea and sun­shine, while hav­ing their health prob­lems treated,” says Tang. Acupunc­ture, TCM mas­sage and fire ther­a­pies have be­come a hit with them, Tang adds.

A cus­tomer usu­ally re­ceives a whole body checkup upon their ar­rival at the cen­ter, which will then come up with a per­ti­nent health tour pack­age plan.

TCM di­ets, tai chi and hot spring ex­pe­ri­ences, as well as vis­its to neigh­bor­ing scenic spots, are ar­ranged for clients.

“For ex­am­ple, if we find prob­lems with their spine, we would rec­om­mend our bone-set­ting and mas­sage prod­ucts,” Tang says.

At the mo­ment, a five-day TCM treat­ment at the cen­ter is priced at 1,180 yuan ($172), while some im­mer­sion ther­apy pack­ages can cost up to over 15,000 yuan per per­son.

An­other TCM des­ti­na­tion is the Yil­ing Health Cen­ter in Shi­ji­azhuang, He­bei prov­ince, which is grow­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar with trav­el­ers from Thai­land, Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore and Switzer­land.

“We usu­ally take in three to four groups of for­eign vis­i­tors each month,” says Zhang Qiaopan, an em­ployee at the cen­ter.

The fa­cil­ity is able to re­ceive more than 1,000 for­eign guests a year.

“We teach them ba­sic TCM phi­los­o­phy, ther­a­peu­tic cui­sine, acupunc­ture and mas­sage, so they can con­tinue prac­tic­ing TCM af­ter they leave,” Zhang adds.

Pack­ages last­ing from sev­eral days for up to four weeks are avail­able for guests to choose from, and English, Rus­sian and Ara­bic ser­vices are pro­vided to meet dif­fer­ent cus­tomer’s needs.

To date, thir­teen health tourism demon­stra­tion fa­cil­i­ties are cur­rently oper­at­ing nationwide, in­clud­ing those in Bei­daihe in He­bei prov­ince, Ji­uhuashan in An­hui prov­ince, Sanya in Hainan prov­ince and Guilin in Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

By 2020, China’s tourism in­dus­try is fore­cast to be worth 7 tril­lion yuan a year, and health ser­vices worth 8 tril­lion yuan, ac­cord­ing to tourism au­thor­i­ties.

Lars Ro­man En­gel from Copen­hagen in Den­mark, has estab­lished con­tact with sev­eral tea-pro­duc­ing re­gions at the expo.

“I tried some of the tea at a few booths, and they were quite nice,” he says.

“I heard that some of them can help your di­ges­tive sys­tem.”

En­gel and his team from a travel agency in Copen­hagen joined the expo to “find in­spi­ra­tion and get to know what’s hap­pen­ing in China’s health tourism in­dus­try”.

He be­lieves that the health prod­ucts dis­played at the expo could be a good fit for trav­el­ers from his coun­try.

“In Europe, we are very busy and we need var­i­ous treat­ments that can help us calm down and feel like our­selves again,” he says.

“So, I think these kinds of tea could just hit the spot.”

ISMAEL SANDIEGO / FOR CHINA DAILY

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The sec­ond Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Health Tourism Expo ran from Sept 7 to 9.

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