【China Daily】Travelers ’are like country’s diplomats’

Date:2015-11-30 From:China Daily

Outbound tourism seen as having strong role in country’s push to go global

The number of Chinese going overseas on holiday has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, and the outbound tourism industry can play an important role in China’s globalization, experts say.

Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization(CCG), says China’s opening-up is part of its citizens going on overseas holidays.

Last year, China’s outbound tourism industry was worth $160 billion (150 billion euros), which is higher than Chinese companies’ combined outbound investment of $140 billion.

"China’s globalization is people’s globalization," Wang said at a meeting of the China Outbound Forum in Sanya, Hainan province.

"People first travel to a country, and then want to study, work and invest there."

Delegates at the forum discussed the latest trends of Chinese companies’ efforts in going global, and the challenges and potential of development.

"Every day about 20,000 people travel between China and the US, and about 15,000 travel between China and Europe," Wang said.

"One of China’s biggest soft powers could be its tourists. If they could go global and act properly overseas, and at the same time spend money, they would be good diplomats and improve China’s image."

Qian Jiannong, vice-president of Fosun, the investment group, says over the past few years China’s outbound tourism has grown more than 40 percent a year, and the domestic market is growing rapidly, too. He agrees that tourists play an important role in globalization.

"For example, the Belt and Road Initiative is not only about building railways, highways and airlines. It is more about economic, cultural and people exchanges in various countries."

Fosun says it is increasing its global investment in tourism. It bought the French resort operator Club Mediterranee, has invested in the British tour operator Thomas Cook Group, and has many travel agencies in China and India.

"In the rapidly growing tourism industry, I don’t think the supply of products in China can keep up with changes that are taking place in the market or make the most of the opportunities that national strategies such as the Belt and Road deliver," Qian says.

The Chinese tourism industry and the products it delivers need a shake-up because they have not kept pace with demands that have changed as people’s incomes have grown, he says.

"Most of China’s tourism products are stuck in this phase where tourists are taken to scenic spots to take photos, but they are not given the chance to relax or do anything else. One of the most difficult things with Chinese holidays is that tourists have to line up at scenic spots, and wherever they go there is heavy traffic.

"But if you have the right products, ones that allow people to stay in one place for a few days, it would be much less crowded."

Tourism has great potential, he says, and Fosun will continue to increase investment in products that China lacks, particularly in areas of short supply.

"We will do that globally, not only in one country, because tourism is global. We also hope that through Fosun’s global tourism resources investment and acquisition we can reshape the global tourism industry."

Henri Giscard d’Estaing, chief executive of Club Mediterranee, says Chinese tourists’ habits are changing.

They used to like visiting as many places as possible, he says, but now many are keen on taking things more slowly and lapping up local culture.

China is the company’s biggest market, he says, and Chinese customers stay at the company’s resorts for an average of 3.5 days. Ten years ago they would have stayed for just a night. For the club this represents an opportunity to introduce new products for Chinese tourists.

For China, the challenge is that its tourism industry lacks the experience of, for example, the industry in Europe, Giscard d’Estaing says. However, the country has many highly attractive tourist sites, and it needs the right resources and talents to run them.

Zhang Lingyun, a professor at Beijing Union University, says last year Chinese tourists made 3.6 billion domestic trips, generating turnover of about 3 trillion yuan ($468 billion; 440 billion euros), and many international companies are targeting Chinese tourists.

"The supply of products needs to be raised. In addition, the industry needs to go global, but that does not just mean tourists going abroad. Our logistics, information and capital flow need to integrate with the international market," he says.(By Chen Yingqun)

From China Daily, Nov. 27, 2015