Restrictions and precautions with regard to SARS-CoV-2 are phased out almost everywhere. Destinations are recording bookings for the summer season on a higher level than ever before. Optimism is back in the tourism industry. Even with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia still going on and energy prices rising, travellers all over the world are willing to use their travel budget they could not spend in the last two years.
This is true for, well, almost the whole world. We do not refer to the maybe 2.5 billion people too poor even for domestic tourism or the probably 6 billion people not affluent enough for international tourism and also not to the suddenly yacht-less Russian oligarchs, but – you guessed it – to China.
The pictures of civilians bombed and shot in Ukraine are terrifying and sad, while the videos of rich over-botoxed Russian women destroying their Chanel purses with big scissors in protest of the sanctions create a sense of Schadenfreude. However, the video clips showing millions of Shanghainese locked into their apartments without enough food are simply ridiculous. In the past, Chinese accepted injustice, occupation and corruption over large stretches of history, but food shortages regularly triggered protests, uprisings and even the downfall of dynasties.
At the latest count, 44 cities are under full or partial lockdown and the protests against the badly organised but more importantly completely senseless measures of open-ended lockdowns appear on Chinese Social Media faster than the censors can take them down.
According to official data, 90% of all Chinese received the vaccination. However, 267 million, or nearly 19% of China’s total population, are age 60 or older. The National Health Commission claims that 225 million of them have been vaccinated against COVID-19, with 151 million elderly people also receiving a booster immunization. That leaves more than 40 million without vaccination and more than 120 million without a booster and therefore with a high risk of developing severe or even fatal cases of CoViD-19.
Nevertheless, instead of concentrating on a re-intensified vaccination strategy, The Central government a.k.a. Xi Jinping insists on a continuation of the “dynamic zero-CoViD strategy“ while keeping the economic damage on a minimal level – a Mission impossible for the local governments.
The situation brings to mind the Tangshan earthquake in July 1976, the deadliest earthquake in the 20th century with more than 600,000 fatalities. The earthquake happened just six weeks before Chairman Mao’s death was officially announced.
During the rescue and early reconstruction period, the survivors were made to attend political night schools where they had to spend time studying the consolation telegram sent by the Party Center in the name of Chairman Mao and read Mao’s thoughts. Propaganda claimed that the self-help rescue and reconstruction campaign was a campaign against the rightist Deng Xiaoping line (Deng had been removed from the party leadership a few months earlier), that relied on outside help, supporting instead the correct Maoist line to rely on the “strength of the masses” without outside help. Local units were advised not to ask for government assistance, while at the same time media were praising the Communist Party for providing generous relief aid to the victims.
While it will be some time before China can open up again, at least the uplift in the tourism business in the rest of the world is resulting in some destinations and companies renewing their projects to prepare better for the Chinese source market, which had been planned for 2020, but postponed when the virus struck. Of course, your humble editor can only recommend following this example and using the time to be in the pole position when the Chinese outbound market reopens – maybe in October as a gift by President Xi to pacify the top decile of the Chinese society, which will have to be content with yet another holiday in Hainan for the summer of 2022.
This will certainly also be a topic during the International Tourism Conference of the GITF Guangzhou International Travel Fair, being held online on May 19th, organised by COTRI. Mark the date, more details about this in the next edition of COTRI Weekly.
As always all good wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the whole COTRI Weekly team!