China Rides High on Increased Tourism Investment

From theme parks to high speed rail development, China is improving and diversifying its tourism offering to great effect

As a growing contingent of Chinese hotel groups, travel companies and tour operators descend on ITB Berlin, Shi Xiang, Director of the China National Tourism Association (CNTA) Frankfurt Office, spoke to ITB Berlin News about the latest progress in the Chinese market.

The Chinese tourism market has been growing rapidly in recent years. The growing middle class in China is increasingly seeking travel experiences and leisure activities both within China and abroad. Therefore, Chinese travel companies, tour operators, hotel groups and theme parks have recorded impressive financial gains in the last years.

What are some of the key trends that are driving the Chinese tourism market forward?

Among the biggest trends are theme parks including the Disney theme parks or the Wanda theme parks, which each encompass huge areas that include entertainment, food and accommodation all in one place. Another growing trend is cruise holidays. Luxury and middle class trips on rivers in China and overseas, including Southeast Asia and various western countries, are highly requested at the moment.

Chinese companies are massively investing in European tourism infrastructure. How does this help bolster Chinese outbound tourist figures towards Europe?

By investing in the tourism infrastructure in Europe, Chinese companies are aiming to improve and simplify the conditions and experience for Chinese outbound tourists. In the future, this could also include paying and booking methods that could be more adjusted to Chinese needs. This would also help attract more tourists from China.

Speaking of infrastructure, in China we have seen the recent opening of your major east-west high speed rail link. What will this change for tourism in the less developed south-west of the country?

Infrastructure is a very important factor for the economy and especially for the tourism industry. Lately China has invested very strongly into the infrastructure of the country, especially to support and connect the less economically developed provinces in the western part of China with the prosperous east coast. Numerous high speed railways and highways have been opened in recent years, making the transport connections for tourists faster and easier.

Your government has recently announced a move to increase spending on tourism infrastructure by 20% per year by 2020 – when investment will total 2 trillion Yuan. What are the key goals of this increased investment?

The demand for tourism products in China has grown significantly. As a result, the tourism industry has huge market potential and is now a strong engine for economic growth. To fulfill this potential, infrastructure and public services require continued improvement. As the tourism industry has a very high demand for employees, supporting the industry will also contribute to an increase in Chinese GDP. Therefore, these investments will not only improve tourism products but create new jobs, improve the overall infrastructure, and support the broader economy.

How important is ITB Berlin as a global platform for your DMO and individual exhibitors?

The ITB is a very important opportunity for networking and connecting with international tour operators, touristic service providers and of course with the end consumer. In the international tourism market, ITB Berlin is a very highly valued and well-known event. That’s why we participate in the trade show every year and encourage individual Chinese exhibitors to take part in it as well