Travel and Tourism - China - November 2012
China’s economy is weakening. Unemployment and inflation rates have risen, but tourism – particularly domestic – remains remarkably unaffected by the slowdown. International tourist arrivals dipped following the recession of 2007-09, but they quickly recovered. Foreign tourists accounted for 57.6 million arrivals in 2011, making China the third most popular destination in the world (behind the US and France), according to the UNWTO.
In 2011, international tourism revenues totalled US$48.47 billion – up from US$37.23 billion in 2007. Revenues from domestic tourism have also shown a healthy increase. In 2011, well over 2 billion Chinese opted for a holiday at home, contributing a sizeable US$412.81 billion to government coffers – almost US$100 billion more than in 2007.
There are several reasons for the growth of both domestic and international tourism – increased airlift between China and the rest of the world, a growing list of countries that have been granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) status and an easing of visa requirements for overseas visitors. Moreover, the Chinese are enjoying a higher standard of living than even a decade ago, with more leisure time to spend their hard-earned money.
Another contributor to tourism’s growth has been the large-scale investment in infrastructure – notably for airports, roads and hotels. A total of 82 new airports are on the drawing board, with 101 existing ones earmarked for upgrades.
China’s busiest gateway is Beijing Capital International Airport. In 2008, it was enlarged with the state-of-the-art Terminal 3 in time for the Summer Olympic Games and by the following year, passenger traffic had increased by 16.9%. In 2011, Beijing handled 77.4 million passengers (inbound and outbound), making it the world’s second-busiest airport after Atlanta. The airline industry is flourishing. In 2011, China’s ‘big three’ carriers – Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines – all made a profit, albeit lower than in 2010.
During the past decade, the accommodation sector has increased exponentially. New properties (many of them international brands) are opening all over the country, with hotel operators targeting China’s expanding ‘secondary’ cities, as well as its key urban centres (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou).
In 2000, according to the UNWTO, the room stock totalled 948,185 units. Today, STR Global (a consultancy specialising in the hospitality sector) estimates that number to have grown to 1.4 million. The UNTWO predicts that by 2025, China will have the largest hotel sector in the world, with as many as 6 million rooms.
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