SHI YU/CHINA DAILY
Gov't document outlines plans to better regulate domestic travel
Under the theme of "Beautiful China, Happy Journey", a launch ceremony will be held in Heshun ancient town in Tengchong, Yunnan province, on Friday to celebrate China Tourism Day.
Throughout the month, 10 major promotional events are being held nationwide to mark the day, including "5.19 at 10,000 meters", during which airlines are offering discounted tickets.
The events are designed to tap into the travel fervor created by the Labor Day holiday earlier this month, but as the recovery of the tourism market gains momentum domestically, there has also been a rise in questionable behavior.
Some companies have been accused of offering unreasonably low-priced tours, while some travelers have complained about tour guides insulting them, or pressuring them to buy things at sites. Such behavior has disrupted the normal market order and has had a negative impact on the overall image of the tourism industry.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism issued a document prior to the Labor Day holiday calling for further regulation of the industry to strengthen overall market governance, protect the rights and interests of tourists, and enhance market confidence.
The notice urged local authorities to take decisive action against frequent illegal business practices, and to curb the rise of unreasonably inexpensive tours and the proliferation of market irregularities.
According to the Yunnan Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, the province received about 35 million tourists during the recent holiday, up nearly 135 percent compared to 2019, and generated tourism revenues of about 35 billion yuan ($5 billion).
Simultaneously, the province has stepped up law enforcement inspections of the tourism market, cracking down on illegal activities. During the holiday, 543 complaints were received, all of which were resolved within 24 hours of being lodged.
"Creating a well-functioning market is essential to ensuring a pleasant experience for tourists and to enabling tour companies to operate effectively," Han Yuanjun, a deputy researcher at the China Tourism Academy, told China Tourism News. "It serves as the fundamental basis for the sustainable development of both the supply and demand sides."
Han said that further regulating the market will play a crucial role in ensuring that the expectations of tourists are met, in improving the overall environment for public travel, and in promoting the development of tourism today.
The notice highlighted the importance of regulating the conduct of travel agencies. It called for standardizing contracts between companies and their clients, establishing smooth channels for returns and refunds, and ensuring safety on tours.
Song Changyao, dean of the tourism management department at Beijing International Studies University, said that as tour organizers and wholesalers of tourist offerings, travel agencies play a vital role in coordinating and facilitating tourism.
"Despite the growing trend of independent travel, travel agencies continue to play an indispensable role, particularly in long-distance travel and catering to the needs of senior travelers," he said.
As tourism continues to recover after optimization of COVID-19 measures, Song said it is very important that agencies not only meet market demands, but also prioritize integrity in their business operations and uphold market order amid the dynamic changes to the sector.
To create an enjoyable travel experience, he suggested that travel agencies ensure they are providing accurate travel information, provide an array of tourist offerings and be more attentive to their clients' needs.
Guidance for guides
In April, the topic "encountering boat assassins at West Lake in Hangzhou" trended on Sina Weibo's hot search, attracting widespread attention.
Boat operators were being accused of exploiting customers at the famous lake in Zhejiang province, charging them the standard fee of 150 yuan for a one-hour boat ride, but only taking them on rides lasting for about half an hour.
In response, the West Lake Water Area Management Office revoked the licenses of three of the operators implicated. The office emphasized the need to intensify regulatory measures and enhance professional ethics and conduct through education and training programs.
Liang Xuesong, vice-president of the Hangzhou Tourism Association, said that although the West Lake case was an isolated incident, its impact affects the overall image of the lake and the cultural tourism sector in Hangzhou.
As tour guides are a vital link in the tourism service chain, directly influencing the travel experiences and satisfaction levels of tourists, the notice also emphasized the importance of enhancing training to elevate the overall competence and quality of the service that guides provide.
It stated that strict regulations regarding the professional conduct of tour guides should be enforced to improve the working environment and required employers, including travel agencies, to strengthen internal management and properly compensate guides for their work.
Song said that tour guides should not only have a deep understanding of the sites where they work, but also have a passion to serve.
To improve service, it is vital that tour guides deepen their professional knowledge, strengthen their training, optimize tour schedules and gain a sense of belonging to the tourism sector to better meet standards, he said.
The Office of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism also required local cultural and tourism departments to actively collaborate with market supervision, public security, transportation and other departments to establish a robust mechanism for coordinated regulatory work.
Local tourism associations are encouraged to disclose reference prices for their offerings and to take measures to enhance service. They should also educate tourists to be cautious of offerings that are significantly lower priced than normal in order to promote safe, civilized and rational tourism.
Since the beginning of the year, many cultural and tourism bureau directors have made a name for themselves online as ambassadors for their areas. Their performances in short videos have attracted a considerable number of tourists, not only revitalizing local tourism but also driving the development of regional economies.
Song pointed out that although intensifying efforts in promotional marketing can generate interest, maintaining that interest in the long run requires the existence of a comprehensive range of services.
"Local governments should create shared urban spaces with convenient services such as efficient transportation, clear signage, information centers and consultation services," he said.
Well-designed facilities, such as hotels, restaurants offering unique culinary experiences and convenient transportation hubs should be complemented by theaters, leisure districts and immersive experiential spaces.
The friendliness of local residents and a sense of urban security also contribute significantly to overall tourist satisfaction, Song added.