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23 Oct, 2014

Pollution choking China’s inbound tourism industry

By Su Zhou

Beijing, (China Daily), 2014-10-22 – China’s inbound tourism market is still struggling to bounce back in the midst of rising concerns about issues such as air pollution, according to a new report from the China Tourism Academy.

The number of inbound tourists reached 129.08 million in 2013, down 2.51 percent year-on-year, the report said.

About 75.4 percent of inbound tourists were satisfied with their visits in 2013, down 11.41 percent compared with the previous year. Some tourists from overseas expressed dissatisfaction with the water supply, air quality and barrier-free facilities.

“Since the first quarter of 2012, the number of inbound tourists has been down for nine consecutive quarters both on an annual and quarterly basis, and there is no sign that it will bounce back soon,” said Dai Bin, head of the academy. “China’s inbound tourism market is in a grave situation unseen before.”

“And the complicated exterior environment has added uncertainties to the development of inbound tourism,” Dai added. “Besides the economic situation and international relationships, issues of weather, environment and terrorism have cast a shadow on the industry.”

Jia Zhirong, deputy general manager of Lvmama, an online travel service provider in Shanghai, said his company has seen decreases both in the number of inbound tourists and the money they spend in China in the past three years.

“The majority of our clients are from South Korea, Japan, the United States and Canada,” said Jia. “In 2011, the average spending in China for each overseas tourist was around $2,000, excluding transportation and accommodation. The number has been dropping every year.”

“I think air pollution is a very important reason,” Jia said. “Overseas visitors will not consider traveling to a destination with a potential health risks. “Besides, the reason overseas visitors found China attractive is the natural beauty of lakes, mountains and ancient architecture. With heavy smog, it is very difficult for themto enjoy that.”

Beijing, one of the most important tourism destinations in China, has been palgued by heavy smog for days. The capital’s tourism authority told China Daily that it is aware of the impact of air pollution on tourism, but there are more reasons behind the declines.

Faced with dropping inbound visitors, the authorities have been trying to leverage the tourism market. It has introduced more featured tourism products and marketing plans for foreigners.

“The global economic situation is not that good, and the appreciation of the yuan makes it more expensive for overseas tourists to travel in China,” said one official who declined to be named.

“Also, competition with other nations has become more fierce,” the official said. “Neighboring countries have eased their visa application process to attract more overseas visitors.”