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1 Oct, 2013

Xinhua Insight: China’s new tourism law to upgrade industry


NANNING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) – He Yuhan feels both happy and disappointed while visiting Detian Waterfall on the China-Vietnam border, eleven years after her first visit. Back in 2002, the then 15-year-old girl traveled from Beijing to admire the breath-taking waterfall.

Located in Daxin County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, it is the biggest cross-border waterfall in Asia.

But the scenic area has not improved over the decade-long period, according to He, who thinks the local tourism industry is poor.

It took her more than three hours by bus to reach the destination after she arrived in Nanning, Guangxi’s regional capital. It is exactly what happened a decade ago.

Adding to her disappointment was a lack of facilities such as restaurants and good resting areas, where the only visible change was retailers selling Vietnamese perfume.

“I could not find a good place to rest after more than two hours of walking and I had to go back to Daxin county to have supper, which is far from the scenic area,” He said.

A Daxin government official, who did not want to be named, said the infrastructure for the county’s tourism industry is failing to meet demand due to an under-developed economy and a lack of comprehensive management in the sector.

“Many tourists traveling on their own have to rent chartered buses in groups with ridiculously high prices to get to Detian Waterfall,” said the official.

Li Yanqin, associate professor with the School of Management of Minzu University of China, said Daxin’s problems are quite common, with many cities and scenic areas struggling to upgrade their tourism industry.

“Many places in China have not fully developed their tourism resources, which makes them less competitive among other counties and regions in the world,” said Li.


Li said many places suffer from pollution and damage to cultural relics, caused by nature and mismanagement. “And in turn the problems are scaring tourists away,” said Li.

In April, two days of gales resulted in almost 60 tonnes of garbage ending up onshore at Silver Beach, dubbed the country’s No.1 beach, in southern China’s coastal city of Beihai in Guangxi.

Alongside natural waste such as seashells, seaweed and dead crabs, rubbish dotted the site, turning the beach into a land of garbage.

Plastic bags, beer bottles, shattered glass and bamboo sticks used for barbecues were piled up in the middle and eastern areas of the beach because of southwestern monsoons. Local managers were left helpless.

But rubbish is just part of a broader picture.

Last year alone, an estimated 1,800 tonnes of garbage was found on the beach, according to Yin Fengzhang, environment management director with the Management Office of Beihai Silver Beach Tourist Area.

The local administration committee had garbage collectors cleaning the beach everyday. But the rubbish just kept coming, which tarnished the image of the city.

Beihai, however, is the epitome of many Chinese coastal cities struggling with similar problems, said Chen Changrong, director of the Policy, Regulation and Planning Section of Beihai’s Oceanic Administration Bureau, who boasts 25 years of experience on maritime issues.

The country’s 2012 report on maritime environment quality shows that floating chunks of rubbish on supervised waters off coastal cities averaged 17 pieces per kilometer in 2011, and the number more than doubled to 37 in 2012.


Tourist numbers are on the increase in China. Official figures showed that 3 billion tourists visited the country last year and the industry was worth 2.3 trillion yuan (376 billion U.S dollars), a year-on-year rise of 12 percent and 17.6 percent respectively.

The increasing tourist numbers that swarm scenic spots during China’s golden week holidays are putting pressure on cities.

What adds fuel to the flames is that “black tour guides,” or those that are disqualified, are rampant in many cities, leading to complaints from visitors.

Also, vandalism by tourists has generated headlines, making other visitors’ experiences unpleasant.

To upgrade the tourism industry in various locations in China, it is necessary to change the situation where revenue is mainly generated based on ticket sales, said Fu Shuaixiong, a tourism economy expert from Peking University.

“It is urgent to develop tourism-related industries rather than just depending on tickets, a low-level and old way of generating revenue, which is still in popular practice in many scenic spots in China,” Fu said.

He said that accommodation, catering and recreation projects should be strengthened so that even if ticket prices are lowered, the various projects will actually attract more tourists and contribute more to higher profits, which will in turn create a sound tourism economy.


Fu added that it is essential for cities to build up their brands, which he calls the “core” and the “soul” to take the industry to the next level.

Many places in China, such as southwestern Yunnan and northern Shanxi provinces, have already realized the importance of owning a unique brand and have begun brand-building, which includes image, competitiveness, culture and scenic attraction, Fu said, adding that other provinces and regions should follow suit.

“It will take joint efforts of various departments to realize resource maximization and promotion, which will enhance the whole image of the tourism industry and therefore attract more visitors,” he said.


The fast-growing but flawed industry prompted the country to promulgate a tourism law.

The nation’s first tourism law will be fully implemented on Oct. 1, which experts say will help upgrade the industry, as it will help to rectify unruly behavior among both agencies and tourists. The law will protect the rights of tourists and enforce safety measures at scenic sites.

Li Yanqin said many agencies have promised to get rid of unreasonable elements in tourism, such as forced shopping and receiving kickbacks.

“With clear items regarding tourists, tourism agencies as well as scenic areas, the law will definitely help the sound development of the industry in China,” Li said.