Tourism economy booms this winter
Editorial  ·  2024-02-06  ·   Source: NO.7-8 FEBRUARY 15, 2024

Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, is being hailed as the top travel destination this winter on China's social networks. Due to the region's plummeting winter temperatures, Harbin is known as the Ice City courtesy of its snowy scenery and artsy ice sculptures.

During the New Year's Day holiday from December 31 last year to January 2, Harbin welcomed 3.05 million tourist visits and generated revenue of 5.91 billion yuan ($831 million), both record highs, according to official statistics. During the Spring Festival travel rush from January 26 to March 5 this year, tourists from all over China are flocking to the country's northernmost provincial capital to explore its ski slopes and other fun ice and snow activities.

But Harbin is just one of the destinations that have gone viral. Several regions have witnessed tourism booms in recent years. Zibo City in Shandong Province, for one, saw its local barbecue become a national sensation in 2023. In Guizhou Province, a village basketball tournament became a bonafide phenomenon in August 2022, with spectators comparing this "Village Basketball Association" (VBA) to the U.S. National Basketball Association. The VBA has since expanded nationwide.

Though some may be fleeting, fads like these do drive tourism and help it make a strong comeback in the post-pandemic era.

China's outbound travel, too, is showing strong signs of recovery. According to Trip.com, a leading online travel platform, the number of outbound travel orders in the Chinese mainland in 2023 soared 550 percent compared with 2022.

In the meantime, China has implemented visa-free policies for ordinary passport holders from a growing number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia. Countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Angola and Thailand have introduced visa-free policies for Chinese tourists under various conditions. These policies show the Chinese Government's determination to facilitate international travel as well as other countries' enthusiasm for welcoming Chinese tourists.

The upward trend in both domestic and outbound tourism is partly due to pent-up consumer desire during the pandemic. It is also due to effective government initiatives. Both central and local governments view tourism as a key driver of economic growth, job creation and cultural exchange, and have put in place favorable policies. The focus is therefore not just on the post-pandemic recovery of the tourism sector, but also on its long-term, sustainable growth.

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