The COVID-19 pandemic continues to strongly affect China’s tourism industry.
As a result, provinces are cutting prices for travel. They are offering tax reductions and even asking local people to help save an industry that provides millions of people with jobs.
Official data shows that the drop in tourism has continued this year because of additional COVID-related restrictions on travel. New lockdowns and mass testing also appear to be playing a part.
The southern provinces of Yunnan and Hainan are especially struggling. They depend on tourism earnings to grow their economies. Northern parts of the country that have a shorter season of warm weather are also hurting.
The tourism situation has become more severe in recent months as the Omicron version of the virus has spread. Tourism made up over 11 percent of China’s gross domestic product in 2019 and supported nearly 80 million jobs.
Tian Yun is a former economist at the state economic planning agency. Tian expected inter-province trips to increase during the three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday in early June.
But, Tian said, "If inter-province trips are banned during the Dragon Boat Festival, this year's tourism… will be in chaos.”
A continued lack of tourism may remove at least 0.5 percentage points from China's 2022 economic growth, Tian said. The government expects the economy to grow by 5.5 percent this year.
Cancellations and cuts in air travel are among the reasons people are not traveling. The number of weekly flights inside China is about 35,000. That is the lowest number since the year 2000.
Official data shows that tourists from other parts of the country made up five percent of visitors at popular places across China during the recent holiday honoring ancestors.
Hohhot is the capital of the northern Chinese area of Inner Mongolia. It is known for its grasslands. During the recent holiday, the number of tourist trips there fell by half. Earnings from tourism fell 53.5 percent compared to a year earlier.
The southern island province of Hainan, called China's Hawaii, also had decreased gains from tourism. The number of tourist trips to Sanya, a beach area in Hainan, dropped 99 percent during the holiday, official numbers showed.
Dependence on local people
Local visitors helped lift the number of tourist trips to Ningxia, a poor area dependent on tourism in northwest China.
Ningxia has provided its local population with passes to more than 60 scenic areas for $31. That is a huge price drop compared to normal costs. Even with higher visitor numbers during the recent three-day holiday, earnings sank 16.3 percent compared to one year earlier.
Gu Xuebo is a Ningxia driver and guide. He told Reuters reporters that locals use their own cars and can drive to scenic spots on their own. He added that there is also no demand for hotel rooms among local visitors.
Gu said his 14-seat vehicle has mostly remained unused since August. This year, Gu has had just two clients.
"Several drivers who had worked with me for six, seven years have all switched to other jobs," said Gu.
Bookings at Desert Star Hotel in Ningxia's Shapotou Scenic Zone are down 70 percent from a year earlier.
"Tourists from other provinces cannot come here, so we have to rely on local tourists," said a hotel worker named Zhang. "It's better than having no one."
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Reuters reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
tourism – n. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment for people who are traveling
province – n. a large area of a some countries that has its own local government
gross domestic product (GDP) – n. the total value of the goods and services produced by the people of a nation during a year not including the value of income earned in foreign countries
chaos – n. complete confusion and disorder
scenic –adj. having, providing, or relating to a pleasing or beautiful view of natural scenery
client –n. someone who pays for services provided by a business
rely –v. to depend on something or someone; to need
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