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Monday, July 25, 2022, 12:20
Tourism recovery gains traction
By Zhang Xiaomin in Dalian, Liaoning, Cang Wei in Nanjing and Ma Zhiping in Sanya, Hainan
Monday, July 25, 2022, 12:20 By Zhang Xiaomin in Dalian, Liaoning, Cang Wei in Nanjing and Ma Zhiping in Sanya, Hainan

Travelers take photographs before climbing Huashan Mountain in Shaanxi province. (TAO MING / XINHUA)

The domestic tourism market is recovering rapidly in China thanks to the introduction of a series of favorable policies.

On June 25 and 26, the number of air ticket bookings rose significantly compared with the previous weekend, according to travel agency Qunar, one of the nation’s leading online tourism platforms.

Dalian, Liaoning province, was among the 10 most popular destinations reporting the highest growth rates for visitors.

Located on the southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula, the city faces the sea in three directions. Even during the height of summer, it enjoys temperatures of about 25 C, making it a popular getaway.

Li Feng, a member of the sales department at the Hard Rock Hotel Dalian, said, “Our bookings have tripled since last month, and … inquiries about room availability have also risen significantly since June.

“Schools are closing down for summer, and family vacations have become the main form of tourism consumption.”

The hotel, situated in Dalian Jinshitan National Tourism Resort next to the Discoveryland Theme Park, features activities based on music and other forms of entertainment.

At the neighboring Hilton Dalian Golden Pebble Beach Resort, a picnic camping area has been set up on the lawn, allowing visitors to get closer to nature.

Li Ruixue, the hotel’s commercial director, said, “We are looking forward to a busy season for the summer and second half of the year.

“As a top-rated national resort, Jinshitan is ideal for a relaxing holiday, with a good atmosphere and excellent recreation facilities,” she said, adding that with the launch of new marine cultural tourism projects, Jinshitan is becoming busier and offering more forms of entertainment.

Dalian is striving to become a Culture City of East Asia. On June 25, the local bureau of culture and tourism launched a fair, with some 60 tourist attractions, travel agencies and hotels in the city promoting their featured products.

Zeng Wuling, deputy director of the bureau, said Dalian aims to benefit from the summer tourism season and further promote the recovery and development of its cultural and tourism industries.

“In tandem with regular epidemic prevention and control measures, we’re building platforms, innovating mechanisms, and exploring the potential to promote high-quality development of the city’s cultural and tourism sector,” she said.

A water sport enthusiast takes to the sea off Hainan. (MENG ZHONGDE / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Meanwhile, five new sightseeing cruise routes have been launched by Kaishi Group for tourists to enjoy the marine and coastal scenery in Dalian’s Lyushunkou district.

Wu Di, general manager of the group’s cruise company, said: “We’re trying to introduce quality sightseeing routes. Tourists experience not only unique scenery, such as Snake Island, Seagull Island and the point where the Yellow Sea and Bohai Bay meet, but also learn about the local environment.”

The team Wu oversees is well prepared for the expected boost in spending by visitors this summer, and has already welcomed dozens of tour groups from Shandong province.

However, on July 3, a person who had completed quarantine after returning from overseas was identified as an asymptomatic COVID-19 case.

Next day, Dalian’s epidemic prevention and control headquarters said a residential building in Shahekou district had been classified as a high-risk area for the disease, and the surrounding area was classed as medium-risk.

Despite this, a 100-day festival featuring more than 300 types of food from China and overseas began on July 3 at the Qingniwa pedestrian zone in the city’s Zhongshan district.

At another pedestrian street about 1 kilometer from Qingniwa, the Carnival of Tianjin Street has been attracting nighttime visitors since it opened on June 18. According to the organizers, the average daily visitor flow exceeds 200,000, with some 600,000 arrivals reported on one day.

In Jiangsu province, the removal of COVID-19 risk indicators from residents’ travel codes late last month has encouraged many people to venture farther afield.

Li Pei, who lives in Nanjing, the provincial capital, said the removal of the indicators helped him and his family when they traveled to Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province.

The family arrived in the ancient city on June 28 after reserving a hotel and tickets for tourist attractions in advance. However, two COVID-19 infections a day were reported in Nanjing before their departure.

Li Pei said: “I noticed that the risk indicators appeared on my family’s travel codes at Lukou International Airport in Nanjing. With my wife and two children standing around me with suitcases, I couldn’t help feeling anxious.”

He immediately called the hotel and tourist attractions he had booked in Xi’an. Knowing that they could check in at the hotel but could not visit most of the venues, the family still decided to travel.

The Nanshan scenic spot is a popular attraction in Sanya, Hainan province. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

After arriving in Xi’an, Li Pei and his family were asked to take PCR tests before leaving the airport.

They rescheduled their plans, thinking that most local tourist attractions, including Huashan Mountain, the Terracotta Warriors and Huaqing Palace, were off limits to them.

“We wandered the downtown streets, markets and snack shops. Although they were somewhat shabby, some of the shops provided really tasty food,” Li Pei said.

“It never occurred to us that the risk indicator would be removed from the travel code on June 29, the second day we were in Xi’an. Although the health code in Xi’an still indicated people with a travel history from Nanjing, we were allowed to visit tourist attractions in the city.

“We took PCR tests daily — from the day before we left Nanjing to the day we left Xi’an. We had a great time traveling, and I hope that the restrictions can be further eased.”

On July 10, with fewer restrictions enforced in Nanjing, the city welcomed its first tour group since arrivals were again allowed from other provinces. The group comprised 50 travelers.

In Nanjing’s Gulou district, the director of a travel agency, a person surnamed Tong, said, “Bookings from outside Jiangsu have risen significantly in just one month, but they are far from returning to pre-epidemic levels.

“Many travelers still lack confidence. They prefer short trips to neighboring cities, which cost less and are easier to cancel.”

Some people remain daunted by the prospect of being placed under compulsory quarantine if they travel, especially to areas with a medium or high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Li Xiufen, 63, who lives in Jianye district, Nanjing, said she had been planning for two years to visit her aunt, who is 80 and lives in Suzhou, Jiangsu, but she had to abandon the idea.

“I don’t want to be quarantined and have to take a PCR test every day. If any COVID-19 infections are reported in Suzhou when I travel there, this will cause me a lot of problems,” Li Xiufen said.

Visitors enjoy snacks at roadside stands in Tianjin Street, Dalian, Liaoning province. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

She added that it is good to visit relatives for one or two days, but being quarantined with them in an apartment for one or two weeks would be a “nightmare”.

“I have a friend who recently traveled to Beijing from Shaanxi, but she was put under quarantine in a hotel,” she said. “She and her daughter were classified as sub-contacts of a COVID-19 infection after they visited the Universal Beijing Resort. Although they planned to go to many places of interest, they had to remain in a hotel room.”

In Hainan province, new summer lifestyles are being offered to visitors, with prevention and control measures against COVID-19 being gradually eased nationwide since late last month, heightening people’s confidence in traveling.

Wang Ling, a holidaymaker from Shanghai, spent a day wake-surfing with three of her friends in Sanya, Hainan.

“It is so exciting to go wake-surfing on the crystal-blue sea. We will certainly return to Hainan for holidays,” said Wang, who works for an information technology company.

When she was confined at home by the COVID-19 outbreak, Wang learned online about wake-surfing in Sanya, a destination highly popular among summer vacationers from Shanghai. “We were eager to go there and relax,” she said.

Yao Yuanfa, head of a wake-surfing club at Sanya Banshan Peninsula Sailing Port, said, “We have welcomed groups of tourists, many of them from Shanghai, and most of them young women.”

The port has served as a stopover point for global ocean sailing events, including the Volvo Ocean Race and the Clipper Round the World Race.

Yao has three MasterCraft yachts and a team of instructors, and his services have been fully booked every day recently. He said more than 10 such clubs in the area are enjoying brisk business, even though it is the low season for tourism in tropical Hainan.

Local authorities and tourism officials said visitors from other provinces and regions on the Chinese mainland have returned in numbers to the numerous bays dotted around Hainan.

Zuo Zhiyong, deputy secretary-general of Sanya Yachting Association, said the number of people from outside Hainan arriving for sea sports and other activities has returned to the level seen during Spring Festival, the high season for tourism in the province.

He said that Sanya, located on the southern tip of the island province, saw 87,200 people take 12,345 yacht cruises during the two-week Spring Festival holiday period, with many of them trying wake-surfing and diving for the first time.

Developing the yachting industry — part of the nation’s plan to build Hainan Island into a globally influential free trade port by the middle of this century — tops the province’s agenda. According to a plan released by the provincial authorities two weeks ago, Hainan will become a world-renowned tourism destination for yachting by 2035.

Revelers enjoy a summer carnival at Shijingshan Recreational Park, Beijing, on July 2. (JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY)

Local officials said a series of related promotional policies and measures have been introduced, creating unprecedented opportunities for domestic and foreign investors.

Flights between Shanghai and Hainan have gradually resumed, while airfares have risen as tourism rebounds due to the stabilization of COVID-19 outbreaks and the relaxation of pandemic prevention and control policies in Hainan, according to Ctrip, a major online ticketing service company.

To increase passenger capacity, airlines switched late last month to using Boeing 787 Dreamliners for flights between Shanghai and Sanya.

Deng Yongbo, secretary-general of the Sanya Tourism Association, said hotel occupancy rates in the city have risen far above 60 percent on average. Guest numbers at premier luxury hotels in Yalong Bay and Haitang Bay have rebounded strongly from the pandemic, with many hotels now reporting around 90 percent occupancy.

“Most of our tourists, many with families, come from Shanghai or Beijing. With parents enjoying promotions at duty-free shops, their children are offered a range of activities by hotels nearby, including summer camps providing programs such as surfing, diving and other outdoor sports,” said Lai Meichen, a manager with The Westin Resort at Sanya Haitang Bay.

Tourist volumes at major scenic spots in Sanya have returned to about 70 percent of the level before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Sanya Tourism Group officials.

Meanwhile, more professional and amateur surfers from around the country are flocking to bays in Wanning on the east coast of Hainan, which is famed for its stunning natural beauty.

Zhou Xinlei, who coaches surfing in Wanning, said his company has trained more than 200 instructors in the past year.

“Surfing became popular in China after the International Olympic Committee voted in 2016 to add it as a new sport for the 2020 Olympics. More people from cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, have shown a keen interest in learning to surf,” Zhou said.

Experts said the steady revival of Hainan’s tourism industry is set to continue in the second half of this year following the development of leisure and entertainment programs and the introduction of measures to support the growth of Hainan Free Trade Port as an international tourism consumption destination.

The number of tourists visiting the province this year is expected to reach 89 million, a rise of 10 percent year-on-year, while tourism revenue is likely to grow by 15 percent, or 160 billion yuan ($23.8 billion), according to a report by a local think tank.

Contact the writers at mazhiping@chinadaily.com.cn

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