‘A’ means ad­vance­ment for tourist spots

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

There are so many ex­cit­ing and world-renowned at­trac­tions to see in China, such as the GreatWall, the PalaceMu­seum andMount Huang­shan. With 5,000 years of his­tory and civ­i­liza­tion, China is home to the sec­ond high­est num­ber (50) of UNESCOWorld Her­itage Sites; only Italy (51) has more.

China’s do­mes­tic tourism mar­ket has been boom­ing over the last decade, with a 10 per­cent an­nual growth on av­er­age. China’s top-rated, AAAAA or 5A, tourist at­trac­tions have tripled from 66 in 2007 to more than 200 at present. How­ever, three sites were re­cently stripped of their 5A rat­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tions.

The first case of can­cel­la­tion of the 5A-rated ac­cred­i­ta­tion was Shan­haiguan Pass, the east­ern end of theMing Dy­nasty (1368-1644) GreatWall in North China’s He­bei prov­ince, last Oc­to­ber, while South­west China’s Chongqing mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s Shen­long Gorge and Cen­tral China’s Hu­nan prov­ince’s Or­ange Isle lost their priv­i­lege later. The com­mon prob­lems found by the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion at the three sites in­cluded over­pric­ing, bad san­i­ta­tion, poor fa­cil­ity main­te­nance and de­graded ser­vices.

The mech­a­nism of re­vok­ing rat­ings ini­ti­ated by the CNTA has been widely wel­comed by the pub­lic, be­cause it ex­plic­itly in­di­cates A-rat­ings are re­vo­ca­ble, not an as­sur­ance of a on­ce­and-for-ever priv­i­lege.

It is worth not­ing that the fail­ure to pro­mote the “tourism toi­let rev­o­lu­tion” launched by the CNTA in Jan­uary 2015 is the soft un­der­belly of most tourist at­trac­tions in China. In fact, many toi­lets at tourist sites have been built fol­low­ing high stan­dards, but since the man­age­ment is not up to the same stan­dards and most users’ be­hav­iors are un­healthy and un­civil, they be­come dirty and quickly fall into dis­re­pair. That could be reme­died by fol­low­ing the “ABC” rule, namely ar­chi­tec­ture, be­hav­ior and clean­ing. It is also worth em­pha­siz­ing that a sys­tem­atic and com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach is needed to de­velop tourism in a healthy man­ner. In­deed, tourism pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns can boost de­mand. But it is more im­por­tant to first im­prove and strengthen the sup­ply side— the qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture of and ser­vices ren­dered at tourist sites. The de­vel­op­ment of scenic spots should be in­te­grated into the mas­ter plans of lo­cal cities. For ex­am­ple, de­spite be­ing a small city-state, Sin­ga­pore at­tracts tens of mil­lions of tourists ev­ery year. Its tourism strat­egy fo­cuses far be­yond a sin­gle in­dus­try. Tourism in Sin­ga­pore has shaped the en­vi­ron­ment, in­flu­enced con­ser­va­tion and her­itage poli­cies, and im­proved lo­cal res­i­dents’ qual­ity of life. The in­dus­try has also helped boost the city-state’s global rep­u­ta­tion and at­trac­tive­ness as a top place to work, study and live.

It is a pos­i­tive sign that China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) has clearly out­lined the long-term vi­sion for its tourism in­dus­try, which will fo­cus on ad­vanc­ing the in­dus­try’s over­all ser­vice qual­ity and its deeper in­te­gra­tion into other na­tional and re­gional de­vel­op­ment plans. Al­though these sound good on pa­per, the ques­tion is whether and how do­mes­tic tourist at­trac­tions will be able to meet the goals.

As the first step, tourist spots need to change their out­dated mind­set. Be­ing ac­cred­ited with a rat­ing is just a start­ing point but not an end in it­self. To match the fast pace of grow­ing and higher de­mand on qual­ity tourism in China, tourist spots should treat their any A-rat­ings as a mo­ti­va­tion for fur­ther ad­vance­ment, rather than a gim­mick to just sell tick­ets at in­flated prices, risk­ing short­term gain but long-term pain. The au­thor is a con­sul­tant for the In­sti­tute ofWater Pol­icy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore.

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