Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
A frozen waterfall in Jiuzhaigou of Sichuan province. Known as a fairyland on the earth, Jiuzhaigou is famous for its dozens of waterfalls and turquoise-colored lakes. China Photos / Getty Images
A frozen waterfall in Jiuzhaigou of Sichuan province. Known as a fairyland on the earth, Jiuzhaigou is famous for its dozens of waterfalls and turquoise-colored lakes. China Photos / Getty Images
Two tourists wearing panda hats check a map on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. AP Photo
Two tourists wearing panda hats check a map on Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. AP Photo
Flowering trees and limestone cliffs on the scenic Yulong river in Tangshuo, Guilin. Image Broker / Rex Features
Flowering trees and limestone cliffs on the scenic Yulong river in Tangshuo, Guilin. Image Broker / Rex Features
An eight-day holiday in China coupled with cheaper tickets led to hordes of people thronging to places such as the Great Wall of China. Ryan Carter / The National
An eight-day holiday in China coupled with cheaper tickets led to hordes of people thronging to places such as the Great Wall of China. Ryan Carter / The National

China on course for soft landing

Building Brics: China's efforts to boost industries such as tourism are reaping rewards. Hordes of domestic visitors thronged hot spots during the Golden Week holiday as consumption eases the economic slowdown.

The Great Wall of China was packed with people, with barely any room to move. Behind them, this wonder of the world stretched off into the distance with tourists wedged right up against the sides.

Similar scenes were evident on Taishan Mountain in Shandong province, the most important of China's five sacred mountains, where ancient emperors used to pray. At one point, ticket booths had to be temporarily closed to curb the traffic.

It was even worse at Huashan, another important tourism site, where there was an outbreak of violence among impatient tourists waiting in a queue.

During the eight-day National Day holiday earlier this month, there were powerful signs of just how successful the Beijing government's efforts have been to boost domestic industries such as tourism.

"The official tourism data indicate a willingness of the public to pursue leisure and tourism. It remains robust," said Tao Dong, the chief regional economist for Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse.

While other countries do their best to attract outbound tourists from China, the Beijing government is focusing on the home-grown product, as a key part of efforts to boost consumption.

When it issued GDP figures this month, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that in the first nine months of the year, consumption amounted to 55 per cent of Chinese growth.

That means many analysts see evidence in the hordes of people thronging tourism hot-spots such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, that the Chinese economy is indeed heading for a soft landing.

A big factor behind the boom in this year's Golden Week holiday was the combination of the National Day break and the Mid-Autumn Festival.

"An eight-day super-long holiday, first-time exemption of highway tolls and a markdown in the ticket price of many scenic spots to woo visitors spurred Chinese people's tourism passion," said Zhang Weiguo, the director of the Economic Institute of the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences.

During the National Day holiday, 34.2 million "domestic" tourists visited China's 119 major historic sites, a 21 per cent increase during the eight-day holiday period. Admission revenues were up by a quarter.

According to local media estimates, retail sales increased 15 per cent year on year, slightly down on last year's 17.5 per cent, but still a robust performance.

"In our view, the official tourism data indicate that consumers have responded to the government's holiday policy," said Mr Tao.

"We think this is consistent with our 'soft-landing' view of the Chinese economy. The extent of congestion frequently reported is consistent with our view that the non-manufacturing sector offers new areas for efficiency gains and new opportunities for growth."

Lu Ting and Larry Hu, two analysts at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, are convinced the domestic tourism upturn is more evidence that the China growth story is set to continue.

"We are seeing an increasing amount of evidences for green shoots," said Mr Lu.

"This evidence comes from a wide range of sectors including transportation, commodity, exports, property market, credit and money data, tourism in Golden Week and restocking by manufacturing companies.

"Tourism data also point to a shift of consumption towards leisure, a new source of demand."

This switch is hardly surprising. Chinese people are curious about their country, and like to travel at home.

While overseas tourism has exploded, it remains an expensive option for most Chinese. The food is also often cited as a prime reason not to leave the country, while obtaining visas involves navigating through mountains of red tape.

But to help smooth the increase in domestic tourism, major changes need to take place. Mr Zhang has advocated a shift away from the rigid holiday structure, where people take time off at Chinese New Year and Golden Week in October.

This causes traffic chaos, with hundreds of millions taking to the road, the railway and to the air to get home or to head off on holiday.

The Golden Week holiday around May Day was abolished in 2007 and spread out during the year, but Mr Zhang has argued that workers need to have the flexibility to take paid leave at different times of year.

"The linchpin to capitalise on Chinese people's tourism passion is to implement the policy of paid leave and secure a mild and long-lasting incentive from the sightseeing demand," he said.

There are also calls for major investment at Chinese tourism sites to help cater for the boom in demand.

Most of the stimulus money invested in China has gone into upgrading the roads to tourism sites as well as the facilities there.

This has been especially evident in the west of the country, in Xinjiang and Tibet, which have benefited from major investment in tourism, not without controversy at times.

The number of attractions has also grown. Developers recently announced they were building a Buddhism-themed park near the network of caves at Dunhuang in the far west of the country at a cost of about 3 billion yuan (Dh1.76 bn).

It is the latest in a wave of theme parks, which includes a new Disney Resort near Shanghai.

In the next few years, the photographs of tourist crowds could soon be surrounding new cultural icons such as Mickey Mouse, as well as the ancient sites in the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

business@thenational.ae

   

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 The Greens, villas: Q1 no change. 3BR - Dh210-250,000. 4BR - Dh210-260,000. 5BR - Dh220-300,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 5% rise. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Where Dubai rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Dubai have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 The cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Tyn nad Vltavou in Czech Republic. The country wants to continue expanding nuclear energy capacity despite cancelling a tender to build two new units. David W Cerny / Reuters

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 17, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 17, 2014.

 Three generations of the Hakimi family tend to their stall Crawford Market in Mumbai. Subhash Sharma for The National

In pictures: Shopper’s delight at Crawford Market in Mumbai

Crawford Market is an old British-style covered market dealing in just about every kind of fresh food and domestic animal imaginable. Later on renamed Mahatma Jotirao Phule, the market remains popular among locals and visitors by its old name, taken from Arthur Crawford who was the first municipal commissioner of the city.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National