Editorial: The future of China’s outbound tourism – Conference on China’s National Tourism Day

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

China’s tourism, hospitality and aviation industry continues its roller-coaster journey. During a period lasting from summer 2020 to autumn 2021, domestic tourism provided better results and higher number of customers than most service providers in other countries could enjoy.

However, with Omicron B.A.2 taking over, the continuation of the zero-case policy resulted in more and more restrictions for travelling within China and in a perpetuation of the closure of China’s borders. Full or partial lockdowns are in place in 45 Chinese cities, affecting a quarter of the country’s population and about 40% of the economy. 

Among the many victims of this development is also the GITF Guangzhou International Travel Fair, which had to be postponed again to the end of the year. Nevertheless, to celebrate the 30th anniversary year of GITF, an online international conference will be held on May 19th, organised by COTRI.

The date is also chosen to acknowledge China’s National Tourism Day. The rest of the world is celebrating since 1980 Tourism Day on September 27th, based on the rather bureaucratic fact that in the year 1970 on that day the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes took place. 

In China, it was decided in 2011 to create a National Tourism Day instead, to fall on May 19th each year. Original plans for setting the date on Chairman Mao Zedong’s birthday on December 26th, as his birthplace in Shaoshan (Hunan Province) was considered to be the most important tourist attraction in China, fell through. Instead in the end May 19th was chosen, as this day, the 30th day of the third moon of Gui Chou year (May 19th 1613 according to the Gregorian calendar), is the date of the first entry of Xu Xiake, the father of Chinese Geography and relentless traveller for three decades, in his first travel diary. He started with the optimistic observation, while travelling in Zhejiang, that “the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the glorious views create a happy mood”. Weather, sights and sentiment, are important topics for any tourists’ postcard or Instagram entry until today.

Zhu Shanzhong, at that time Vice-chairman of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), explained in 2011 that National Tourism Day helps raise people’s awareness of tourism and establishes its role in education by improving peoples’ civility and knowledge through travel. Second, it helps promote the fine culture of China. Third, it draws greater attention from society for the development of tourism by forging a better environment for it, by boosting spending on travel and thereby establishing tourism as a strategic pillar of the economy.”

Unfortunately, the public was not granted a day off from work on National Tourism Day. Instead, tourist attractions were told to observe the day by charging no entrance fees and tourism administrators promised to take other steps to arouse the public’s interest in travel.

Eleven years later, In 2022, there is certainly no need to “arouse the public’s interest in travel”, as Chinese citizens are still not only barred from international travel but face increasing restrictions of movement domestically. Recent surveys show that most of them do not consider anymore foreign countries as too dangerous places to travel to and are eagerly waiting for the opportunity to go abroad again.

To discuss the situation and especially what can be done today to prepare for the post-pandemic wave of outbound tourism from China is one of the two main topics of the international online tourism conference on May 19th. The other one is a more general look at new forms of international tourism based on Quality, Satisfaction and Benefits. 

Keynotes, panel discussions and interviews with experts from around the world and the opportunity to ask direct questions will offer insights and practical advice much needed in these troubling times. 

Registration free of charge is possible here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEpd-uprD4iEtE6iu6b_Jom26cBAn2SHBC_

The conference will be live in the morning on May 19th, with a second recorded showing in the afternoon, to offer viewer-friendly timing for all time zones.  

As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the whole COTRI WEEKLY team!