Insiders upbeat on Hubei travel market
Published: Jul 19, 2020 09:35 PM

Tourists visit the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province Photo: Xinhua

Industry insiders are upbeat in the tourism sector in Central China's Hubei Province after the province resumed group travels across the provincial border, a milestone in China's fight to contain the COVID-19 epidemic.

Hubei lifted its ban on group travels across provinces over the weekend. The province has also raised the number of tourists allowed in tourist sites from 30 to 50 percent of full capacity.

A group of six tourists from Hubei landed in Lanzhou, capital of Northwest China's Gansu Province, and a group of 14 tourists from East China's Jiangxi Province arrived on high-speed trains to a tourist attraction in Hubei on Saturday.

Industry insiders said group tour services in and out of the province on Saturday are significant, as a number of localities across China begin to loosen their restrictions on inter-provincial travel to salvage the COVID-19-battered tourism industry, and boost spending on the higher end of consumer demand. It has been half a year since Wuhan locked down.

Xu Xiaolei, manager of marketing at China's CYTS Tours Holding Co, told the Global Times on Sunday that information inquiries and bookings have increased on the company's platform since the central Chinese province announced the reopening of group travel services. 

"People have a passion for Hubei, and the thought of their traveling there can help alleviate the local people's livelihood... our Hubei branch has seen a tremendous increase in the number of inquires," Xu said, noting that a 50 percent year-on-year increase in inquiries has been recorded since last week.

Xu foresees more opportunities in the second half of the year when more formal inter-provincial aid initiatives were implemented, provided that the epidemic remains subdued in China. "We had developed some business strategies to accommodate the perceived rise in the second half," Xu noted.

Hubei's travel industry offers 40,000 direct jobs, while the tourism sector can benefit hundreds of thousands of people.

Zhang Lingyun, director of the Tourism Development Academy at Beijing Union University, told the Global Times that the travel service is the last sector in the economic reboot due to the complexities in keeping the virus at bay, while keeping guests entertained.

Besides Hubei, about a dozen Chinese provinces have opened such travel services, after the Ministry of Culture and Tourism gave the green light on July 14. However, overseas travel remains closed, due to the grave situation of the pandemic worldwide.

Ye Qing, a deputy director of the Statistics Bureau of Central China's Hubei Province, said China's reopening of inter-provincial travel and of cinemas, which are both in life services, showed that China is blazing the trail of post-COVID-19 economic reboot, given that many countries are still fighting with the virus.

"However, a few more months are needed before all restrictions are removed, and the tourism industry further recovers," Ye said.

Xu noted that as epidemic control measures became a new normal in the post-COVID-19 era in China, certain uncertainties remain. 

"Each locality may have a different set of rules, and sporadic outbreaks of the virus add uncertainty to traveling within the country," Xu said.
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