Tourism industry picks up as coronavirus outbreak subsides

The spring is in the air, so is the battered tourism industry as the COVID-19 epidemic recedes in China. 

The spring is in the air, so is the battered tourism industry as the COVID-19 epidemic recedes in China. Many scenic spots in regions with low risks have reopened to tourists, bringing dawn and hope to the hard-hit industry.

Cao Aizhen, 49, was finally relieved to see tourists to his home county in eastern China's Jiangxi Province.

Cao lives in Wuyuan, dubbed "China's most beautiful village." Every year, millions of tourists visit the village in spring for the stunning "sea of cole flowers." The splendid natural beauty brings Cao and 100 other villagers over 6 million yuan (US$848,100) each year.

"Last year, it was a challenge to book a room," said Wu Xiangyang, chairman of a local scenic area. "This year, all of us were hit unprepared by the novel coronavirus."

As the epidemic is leveling off, and tourist sites start to reopen in China, the tourism industry has shown signs of recovery.

"In the past few days, we have seen online bookings rebound with over 20 rooms booked a day at most," said Wu.

Confidence rebound

The domestic traveling industry takes up a big share in China's economic growth, contributing 10.94 trillion yuan to the country's GDP and creating 28.25 million jobs last year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The ministry also revealed that more than 10 percent of China's employed population or 79.9 million people worked in tourism-related areas last year.

However, the epidemic put a brake on China's booming industry during the peak travel period of the Chinese Spring Festival holiday, and the shake rippled across almost all business sectors.

A report published by the China Tourism Academy predicted that the industry might see a 56-percent slump in the number of domestic tourists in the first quarter, with the total revenue of the domestic tourism market expected to slash by 20 percent, or 1.18 trillion yuan in 2020.

But now, things are turning around with multiple indices showing a revival of confidence and willingness to travel.

The latest report conducted by China's largest online travel agency Group showed that as of mid-March, more than 1,000 tourist sites had reopened to visitors across the country, of which over 100 were 5A attractions, the country's highest rating for scenic spots.

Jiangxi, a province with abundant tourism resources, has seen all 12 attractions with 5A ratings and 94 4A-rating scenic spots open, according to the local culture and tourism bureau.

Mount Sanqingshan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reopened on Feb. 22 and received almost 20,000 tourists in 20 days, said Yu Honghu with the local scenic spot.

"The market fundamentals supporting the operation of the tourism industry have not changed, and there is a great possibility that domestic tourism consumption will bottom out and rebound," said Dai Bin, president of the CTA, adding that the academy is optimistic of China's tourism market in 2020.

Stringent prevention

While the industry geared up for post-epidemic opportunities, there are no signs of relaxation in prevention.

Measures such as registration of personal information, regular disinfection, body temperature monitoring and cap on daily visitors are strictly implemented at all tourist attractions to lower the risks of infection.

Some places are taking things a step further by encouraging a shift in catering etiquette.

Zhang Ning, executive deputy general manager of Huangling Village of Wuyuan County, said they have been providing tourists with packed food instead of a tableful of dishes for the guests to share.

"Those measures made our trip much safer," said Zhou Zhipeng, who traveled from Shangrao City in western Jiangxi.

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