Tourism market still has great deal of catching up to do

2017-01-05 10:18China Daily Editor: Feng Shuang ECNS App Download
Children play shooting games at a tourism site in Huaibei, Anhui province. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Children play shooting games at a tourism site in Huaibei, Anhui province. (Photo provided to China Daily)

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 answer was a 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 five US Navy 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 in New Zealand 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 in Chinese 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 holiday and leisure markets in many parts of China still haven't developed, and the gap between them and Western countries or Southeast Asia is so distinct.

For instance, many giant hotels in Las Vegas have already added toothbrushes, kettles and slippers in guest rooms for Chinese tourists, as well as a butler service and Chinese-speaking 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 as Heilongjiang 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.

(By Zhong Nan)


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