Tourism to contribute 1-1.5 percentage points less to China’s GDP this year: experts

By Yang Kunyi and Song Lin Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/27 19:18:33

A tourist takes photos of Chinese lanterns at a temple in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 28, 2020. (Xinhua/Rachen Sageamsak)

The contribution of the once high-flying tourism sector to China's GDP may drop by 1 to 1.5 percentage points in 2020, as the outbreak of the coronavirus has pummeled the industry. 

China's southwestern provinces are particularly vulnerable to the shockwaves and will feel the pain deeply, according to experts.

As a booming industry, the tourism sector contributed more than 11 percent of China's total GDP in 2018, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. 

Song Ding, a research fellow at the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, told the Global Times that the contribution could drop by 1 to 1.5 percentage points in 2020, and provinces in Southwest China will be the hardest hit. 

"Southwest provinces like Sichuan and Yunnan are rich in tourism resources but inadequate in industrial infrastructure," Song said. "In recent years those provinces have been striving to develop the sector and their economies rely much more heavily on it than the national average."

Sichuan's revenue in tourism topped the country during the 2019 Spring Festival, at a total of 58 billion yuan ($8.27 billion). The revenue was also one of the fastest-growing nationwide with a year-on-year increase of 30 percent. Yunnan's revenue ranked fourth, with total revenue of more than 42.1 billion yuan. 

"At that speed, those provinces could have made much more money during this year's Spring Festival," Song said. "Considering all the preparations that have gone to waste, the impact could be fatal, especially to smaller companies."

Companies are coming up with novel ideas to stay in business during a time of crisis.  "6renyou", a Beijing-based high-end travel agency, has launched a new live-streaming broadcast of world travel, together with its overseas partners, in an attempt to promote its brand and potentially expand its customer base.

"We have hosted live-streaming of overseas travel for a week, with 5,000 to 20,000 views for each streaming," Jia Jianqiang, CEO of 6renyou, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Industry insiders also noted that there is likely to be a quick rebound in their business if the coronavirus can be contained soon. Jane Sun, CEO of a leading online travel service provider, told the Global Times that although the tourism industry is taking a short-term hit, demand will not decrease in the long run.

According to statistics from, ticket orders on the platform soared 200 percent the same month SARS ended in 2003, and during the first Labor Day holiday after SARS, flight bookings jumped more than fivefold year-on-year. 

Xu Xiaolei, marketing manager at China's CYTS Tours Holding Co, agrees that the tourist traffic is expected to pick up as early as May, but he noted that international travel will need a much longer time to recover. 

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