Editorial: The future of China’s outbound tourism – Revisited

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Last week the GITF Online Conference about China’s outbound tourism took place in cooperation with the organisers of the Guangzhou International Travel Fair and COTRI. Your humble editor had the honor and pleasure to welcome participants from more than 50 different countries on all continents (with the exception of Antarctica). Experts from North America, Europe, and Asia (including Micronesia) shared their insights in keynotes, panel discussions, and interviews on May 19th, the Chinese National Tourism Day. Three participants were furthermore the winners in the Lucky Draw and will enjoy a free Meaningful Tourism Training.

A few highlights, concentrating on the Chinese participants of the GITF Conference: Xu Jing, Vice Chairman of GTERC in Macau and former Regional Director Asia-Pacific UNWTO started the conference with some important general observations, saying that despite the current situation tourism industry must raise its flag high, as it will play a major role in the global recovery from the pandemic. “The light at the end of the tunnel, which is getting brighter and brighter gradually, has already been witnessed in Europe. I am sure with the improvement of the health situation tourism in Asia will also pick up and a speedy recovery will take place.”

Anita Chan, CEO of Compass Edge (Toronto/Hong Kong) pointed out that when the Chinese will be able to travel internationally again, it will be like floodgates opened and what is called revenge travel will happen. This comes with the danger that Chinese travellers will be held responsible again for Overtourism in certain destinations. She agreed that Meaningful Tourism can help to distribute visitors more evenly in time and space.

Zhao Yilong, leader of the Oplus Ecosystem (Tampere/Jiujiang) stressed the fact that you need to be part of an economic ecosystem to be successful, especially in China. “Do not fight alone” was his key message. There are too many voices in the Chinese social media to be noticed and it is not enough to send one’s messages, companies also have to listen to the market and to create win-win situations with their partners. The O+MALL App is a good example for such a successful engagement within an ecosystem.

If you participated in the conference, thank you very much. If you missed the event, there is the possibility to watch the entire five hours of the conference on Youtube using the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4rUapydOXM.

Last week saw also in China a remarkable development in the reaction to the spreading of the Omicron virus in China. Following the instructions of the party leadership under Xi Jinping, the continuation of the “dynamic zero-CoViD” policy creates Orwellian pictures of large groups of “Dabais” (Great Whites) disinfecting without any sense streets and buildings and delivering an ever greater number of citizens into detention camps across the country. In marked contrast to this policy, the government leader Prime Minister Li Keqiang said in a symposium celebrating the 70th anniversary of the CCPIT in Beijing in front of many international business leaders that direct contact between persons are a very important part of international business relations. A few days before Li appeared in a meeting at a university in Yunnan without a mask and in front of a mask-less audience.

A few weeks ago, Chinese censors blocked the UN WeChat account which included a WHO statement criticising the Zero-Case policy, last week a North Korean TV report saying that the Omicron virus was not very dangerous was widely shared before it was removed from the Social Media and now even the Prime Ministers mask-less activities are not reported in the government-controlled media and photos of the event taken off the Social Media.

The hundred years of debate inside the Chinese Communist Party between the position that the Correct Party Line is more important than anything else vs. the idea that It does not matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice seems to continue unabated. As Marxists, the leaders should know, however, that in the end, the economy will prevail as the most important influence. A foreigner with three decades of residence in China, who always criticised COTRI’s outlook as too optimistic, at last, wrote to me with regard to Li Keqiang’s activities that our point of view may be right in the end. There is a chance of a change of the policy in China, which consequently could lead to the reopening of China’s borders before the end of the year.

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