Chinese tourist boom crowds ease as industry slowly develops

By Zi Cha Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-22 18:58:01

A recent commentary piece in your newspaper attributes the overwhelmingly crowded top tourist resorts to Chinese people's lack of a spirit of adventure, illustrating this with examples in Sanya, Beijing's Ditan Temple and the Great Wall during the Spring Festival. It's true that an increasing number of Chinese people choose to spend the traditional New Year holiday, one of the two longest vacations every year, on travel.

According to, China's online travel behemoth, over the past weeklong holiday around 300 million Chinese travelled to places other than to see their families, among whom 6 million made overseas trips. Sanya, the southernmost coastal city in Hainan Province boasting some of the nicest beaches of the country, saw a staggering influx of tourists during the golden holiday. Xiamen, a centuries-long seaport famous for its car-free Gulangyu Island studded with handsome colonial-era buildings, received some 1.95 million tourists with its hotels and restaurants filled to capacity. Their sunny climes and sound tourist facilities are the main reasons for their growing popularity with tourists.

Even in much colder Beijing, people swarmed to temple fairs and historical sites. It is reported that 130 monitored scenic spots received 9.3 million visitors. Skiing resorts also beamed at a year-on-year rise of 8.6 percent in the number of tourists.

On the very first day of the Lunar New Year, my family and I casually decided to go to the moderately close Sam's Club as we did not want to experience bumper throngs at tourist attractions and temple fairs. Unexpectedly, we were blocked up on the Northwest Fifth Ring Road leading to Badachu, a complex of Buddhist temples and nunneries at the foot of the Western Hills, for almost two hours!

Upon arriving at the supermarket, we felt out of spirits and only bought a tin of oat cookies for my niece, leaving a long shopping list uncared for.

Holiday travel has gradually gained traction among the Chinese public. Easing visa restrictions, cheaper flights, duty-free commodities ranging from luxuries to household articles are all driving relatively well off Chinese to travel overseas. That's why pictures of hectic Chinese tourists hustling through high streets and back lanes around world-famous scenic spots often hit front pages.

Nevertheless, Chinese have limited choices in tourist destination because it is just over the past couple of decades that the nation has experienced unprecedented socioeconomic development. This bottleneck can hardly be attributed to Chinese people's lack of adventurous spirit.

Holiday travel originated from a handful of rulers to kill time back into the early Christian era when the first public bathroom, hotel and commercial street emerged in ancient Rome. Even as centuries unfolded, excursions still remained the privilege of aristocrats. It was not until the 19th century that holidaying reached the general public. Incremental wealth precipitated by the Industrial Revolution, a burgeoning middle class, swift urbanization, convenient transportation means coupled with a deteriorating city environment prompted the working class to flock to beaches, lakes and mountains to spend their leisure time.

In 2005, more than 100 million international tourists travelled to the Mediterranean coastal areas, packing the beaches with competing sunbathers. Blighted by international conflicts, stagnant economy, and the weak ruble, Russian tourists eschewed expensive Spain and Italy but chose Egypt and Turkey till late last year in the wake of the downing of a Russian fighter jet and a passenger aircraft respectively. Since then, Russians have abruptly turned to other warm and affordable countries like India, Thailand and Vietnam.

People pick where to go based on a multitude of factors notably economic status, political environment and security scenario. And Chinese are gradually taking up more adventurous trips. During the past six years, the number of Chinese tourists taking cruises that sail around Antarctica has increased from a handful to a few hundreds. As other possibilities open up, Sanya's seashore may become a truly relaxing resort.

Zi Cha, a Beijing-based freelance writer

Posted in: Letters

blog comments powered by Disqus