Tourist index tells where crowds are

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BEIJING, May. 01 (Xinhuanet) — Beijing launched an hourly updated online index of crowds at major tourist sites on Sunday, the day that China’s railway broke its record for the amount of passengers carried on any single day of a May Day holiday.

The index, launched at bjta.gov.cn on Sunday, the first day of the holiday, covers six major sites in Beijing, including the Palace Museum, Summer Palace and Badaling section of the Great Wall. It indicates the size of crowds according to a five-level system, with level five being the most crowded.

The Palace Museum, which had the more visitors than the other sites on Sunday – 10,100 people, or 26 percent more than the same day last year – was labeled level four.

“There were so many people at the Palace Museum that we just moved forward with the crowd step by step,” said Joaquin Couchot, an 18-year-old exchange student from Chile, who came to Beijing with his four friends for the first time.

“The buildings are magnificent, but I didn’t expect that crowd. I should have taken my Chinese friends’ advice about visiting on a normal weekend,” he said loudly, to be heard above the crowd.

Most tourists hadn’t heard of the index. Liu Jing, a postgraduate student at Peking University, said she and her friend wanted to go boating at the Summer Palace on Sunday but the lines were just too long.

“We bought the tickets from scalpers, though they charged an extra 5 yuan (80 cents). The multitude lined up in front scared me,” she said.

However, Liu suggested that the index might not deter tourists from visiting heavily crowded sites. “Visitors come here with an awareness of the large crowds, and they may not have a chance to come at another time. So they have little choice but to squeeze into the throng of people visiting the sites.”

More than 1 million people visited 24 sites in Beijing on Monday, 2.9 percent more than the same day last year, according to the Beijing Travel Committee. On Sunday, those sites had 675,000 visitors.

Beijing is ranked third in the top 10 list of Chinese tourist destinations during the three-day May Day holiday, according to a report released by the China Tourism Academy and ctrip.com, a travel information website, in late April.

The report – based on hotel and flight reservations, Web surfing and searches and online surveys – said coastal cities such as Sanya in Hainan province and Xiamen in Fujian province are the most attractive for tourists and will get the most visitors. Shanghai, Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province, and Jiuzhaigou, in Sichuan province, are also in the top 10.

China’s railways carried 8.2 million passengers on Sunday, according to Xinhua News Agency, more than any other single day in a May Day holiday.

Shanghai saw more rail passengers than anywhere else in China: 1.55 million, 18 percent of the Chinese rail passengers that day.

The Ministry of Transportation predicted on Friday that the railway network would carry around 31.1 million passengers during the holiday, 2.42 million more than in 2011.

(Source: China Daily)

Chinese tourist attractions keep raising prices

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Chinese tourist attractions keep raising prices

Holiday time, and thoughts turn to visiting places of interest and scenic areas to enjoy, at leisure, nature’s bounty. But rising admission prices may cast a shadow over such plans. During the Tomb Sweeping holiday in April, the ancient town of Taierzhuang in Zaozhuang, Shandong province, quietly raised holiday ticket prices, for tourists, from 100 yuan ($15.90) to 160 yuan. Taierzhuang is not alone.

From May 8, ticket prices for the Jinggangshan Scenic Area in the southwest of Jiangxi province will go up from 226 yuan per person to 260 yuan.

According to a report in the Beijing News, nearly half of the 130 top-level scenic areas nationally excluding those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have ticket prices which are now in excess of 100 yuan. About 90 percent of more than 1,000 Internet users said in an online poll that they think a price below 100 yuan is more acceptable.

Tourism experts said the price hike is reasonable, to a certain extent. Commodity and service costs are rising generally. However, government investment in tourist sites is lagging, and this puts the onus on operators to boost income. But the system is not uniform and prices vary.

The public is in the dark.

“In theory, scenic areas are public property, but this is a naive viewpoint,” said Zhang Lingyun, vice-dean of the tourism institute of Beijing Union University. “In reality, the local government usually treats these natural resources as cash cows to revitalize the local economy.”

Taierzhuang was a provincial business center during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties after the route of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal was changed. It later became a battlefield where the Chinese won a major victory over the Japanese in April 1938 during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

Seeing its tourist potential, the Zaozhuang municipal government launched a project in 2009 to rebuild the ancient town by restoring the docks and renovating its courtyard houses and other historical sites.

The town had a “tourist test run” during the 2010 May Day holiday and received more than 2.4 million visitors by the end of last year.

When the town first opened to tourists the admission price was 50 yuan. This rose later to 70 yuan and more than tripled within two years.

“Zaozhuang used to rely on its rich coal reserves until they fell below 600 million tons in 2006,” said Wang Zhan, the publicity officer for the ancient town’s administrative committee.

“The city government realized its resources would be exhausted in less than 20 years and turned to tourism.”

Billions of yuan were invested and since 2008 nearly 2 billion yuan in tourist cash has arrived.

Wang noted that Zaozhuang had no tour bus and no local tour guides when it decided to become a tourist center but it now has 105 tour buses and 400 local tour guides. Until recently, the city had only 4,700 hotel beds with an occupancy rate lower than 40 percent. During the last three years, the city has seen the arrival of 78 more hotels and 14,000 more hotel beds. Ten five-star hotels have been built or are under construction but they still cannot meet demand.

Publicity

The tourist industry, directly and indirectly, created 100,000 new jobs for the city. Farmers sold more than 200 million salted duck eggs in 2011, for 400 million yuan, Wang said.

To promote tourism in Zaozhuang, the municipal government formed a special office to generate publicity efforts across the country. The government also set a tourist number target for each department, district and site to bring to the city and made evaluations based on their performances.

Every week, the office generates a report on how many advertisements or promotional stories were placed on TV and newspapers, how many publicity posts were made on which Web forums, and how many brochures were distributed to which companies and organizations.

Among more than 20,000 tourism spots in China, income from ticket sales accounts for 30 percent of the total income of the spots on average, said Zhang of the tourism institute of Beijing Union University. For smaller tourism spots, the percentage is even higher.

“The finance of some local government relies heavily on tourism tickets, and therefore the government gives the nod for prices to rise, ignoring the long-term development of tourism spots,” said Zhan Dongmei, an expert with the China Tourism Academy.

“Although scenic areas are owned by the central government, they are actually run by the local government. It is not clear who owns the rights or has overall responsibility for these tourism spots, so nobody is held responsible for increasing costs,” she continued.

But rising ticket prices are tolerated by a majority of tourists.

Zhang noted that tickets only account for a small part of traveling expenses and therefore people rarely give up their plans simply because a ticket may cost more.

Even if they have to pay 100 percent more for a ticket that previously cost 100 yuan, the increase is, more often than not, accepted.

Besides, the growing demand for people to travel and have a break, especially on weekends and holidays, also helps push up the price. After Taierzhuang raised its prices it still received more than 22,800 visitors on Saturday, April 21.

Lao Yibo, a tourism-planning consultant based in Guangdong province, said most domestic tourism destinations rely too much on admission tickets as a main channel for income.

“And it seems that the ticket price does not have too much of an impact on the number of tourists as there are more people traveling nowadays. As a result, for managers of these tourism destinations, raising ticket prices is the least risky and easiest way to make money.

“However, this is still a beginner’s way of developing tourism,” he said.

Discount

In contrast, according to Lao, many tourism sites in other countries are ticket-free, or only a small entrance fee is charged.

For instance, in Japan, the entrance fees for tourist sites are kept deliberately low. People do not need to pay to climb Mount Fuji.

And a majority of museums are also free. But people do need to buy expensive tickets at theme parks, such as Disneyland, as well as commercial shows and exhibitions.

In France, the average ticket price at tourism attractions is about 10 euros ($13.2). The government also has discounts to attract tourists. For instance, the admission for adults to the Louvre Museum is 9.5 euros and free of charge the first Sunday of each month. The museum also has a year pass for 15 euros for youths between 18 and 25.

Government subsidies play a role as do souvenir sales.

“I don’t buy souvenirs normally but I bought one very expensive piece in Japan. It was of very high quality, so I didn’t hesitate to pay for that,” said Lao.

Chinese travelers feed Dubai’s ‘tourism spring’

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DUBAI – Dubai registered in 2012 a 27- percent increase in the number of hotel guests from China, the sheikhdom’s promotional arm Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) revealed Sunday.

Speaking at a media briefing on the occasion of the largest Middle Eastern tourism fair Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Saleh Al Geziry, director of DTCM’s overseas promotion and inward missions, told Xinhua that “Dubai hotels registered in 2012 a total of 193, 000 stays of Chinese nationals, representing a 27-percent increase compared to the previous year.”

The number of Chinese people staying in Dubai was higher in reality as 200,000 citizens from China stay at the homes of their family members or friends in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Mark Walsh, group exhibition director of the five-day travel fair ATM, which will kick off Monday, said that the number of Chinese travel agents visiting the congress rises every year. ” This year we have a total of 2,400 exhibitors, a 7-percent increase to 2011, and 83 new companies,” Walsh said, a total of 9. 3 million tourists visited Dubai last year.

Al Geziry said, “What we witness here is a tourism spring after sluggish years in the wake of the global crisis.”

“The Chinese market is important to Dubai. Since both sides, the UAE and China, liberated their bilateral visa policy in September 2009, the DTCM has regularly presented Dubai as a holiday destination in major Chinese cities, and the immense response speaks for itself,” said Al Geziry.

Most popular hotel destinations among Chinese travellers are the seven-star hotel Burj Al Arab, the 1537-room luxury resort Atlantis The Palm and the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, which is operated by the Swiss hospitality group M venpick.

“Chinese guests are meanwhile the third largest group in our hotels,” said Yasmine Hidalgo, public relations manager at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, “They like the proximity to the Ibn Battuta shopping mall and of course our Chinese restaurant Shangai Chic. Our visitors from China like the sun, beach and lifestyle of Dubai, but at the same time they also like to feel at home.”

Tourist train goes into service between Chinese city and DPRK

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A tourist train in northeast China’s Jilin province went into service on Saturday, offering trips between the city of Tumen and Chilbo Mountain in the neighboring Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

A total of 65 Chinese tourists took the train into the DPRK for its first trip and will spend three days and four nights in the country, said Zhao Renjie, deputy director of the Tumen Municipal Bureau of Foreign Affairs and Tourism.

The tourists walked for about 20 minutes to the city of Namyang in the DPRK, which is separated from Tumen by a river, before boarding the train, Zhao said.

The group will visit Mount Chilbo and the city of Chongjin in Hamgyong, and hot spring spas in Kyongsong County during their stay, Zhao said.

The train, which will make one trip between the cities each week, went into service as part of Jilin’s efforts to promote cultural exchanges with the DPRK. The province launched a one-day walking tour of Namyang in May 2008.

China decided to grant approved outbound destination status to the DPRK in September 2008. The first Chinese group tour to the DPRK took place on April 12, 2010.