Yuyuan Garden, one of the most popular tourist spots in town, is crowded by tourists in Shanghai, China, on May 1, 2012.
The hazards of sight-seeing in China are no secret: epic crowds, megaphone-toting guides and aggressive touts. Now, a series of reports in state media are lambasting another unwelcome surprise that often awaits visitors—the meteoric rise in admission prices.
These days, a ticket to enter many Chinese tourist locations–even more humdrum sights in second-tier cities–can cost you more than a trip to the Louvre or, say, Mt. Fiji. That’s because local governments lean heavily on such public sight-seeing spots to fill their coffers, say industry experts. To take one example, the price of one ticket to see the pretty village of Taierzhuang, between Beijing and Shanghai, has more than tripled in just two years. As China’s tourism industry booms, other price hikes are likely to follow: the Global Times, a tabloid run by the Communist Party-backed People’s Daily, reports that price increases this year could range from 20% to a hefty 100%.
“In theory, scenic areas are public property, but this is a naive viewpoint,” Zhang Lingyun, vice-dean of the tourism institute of Beijing Union University, tells People’s Daily. “In reality, the local government usually treats these natural resources as cash cows to revitalize the local economy.”
Or take another high-priced destination: a visit to the Jiuzhaigou park in Western China, whose aqua and rainbow-hued waters have attracted growing hordes of visitors in recent years. An entry ticket during prime season will set you back 220 yuan, while a bus to get around the park will cost you another 90 yuan. That’s a total cost of nearly $50.
During this past Labor Day holiday in China this week, many Chinese tourists took to the Internet to voice their disgust over ever-rising ticket prices. “Traveling is just too painful. Ticket prices, travel fees, the cost of oil….Better to stay at home and buy stuff online or watch movies in comfort,” wrote one user.
“Ai, going to Putuoshan [a Buddhist island southeast of Shanghai described in tourist promotions as “magic, holy and mysterious”], I resent the government for being just too wicked. These ticket prices are so deathly expensive,” sighed another.
According to China’s state broadcaster, this year, among the country’s top-ranked scenery spots, only 22% had ticket prices less than 60 yuan ($9.50). Nearly half of tourist destinations had ticket prices in excess of 100 yuan ($15.90).
Meanwhile this past week, visitors battled another inclement force in Chinese tourism: unforgivingly massive crowds. The number of visitors trooping through Beijing’s Forbidden City this past Sunday rose by 26% compared to the year prior. In fact, the crowds have become so overwhelming that China’s government has even launched a meter to give tourists an online index of the number of visitors at major tourist sites–updated hourly—for would-be tourists to consult before heading out to brave the masses.
– Te-Ping Chen. Follow her on Twitter @tepingchen« Prev：Campaign to encourage US tourism launches China key to tourism growth：Next »