Region urged to facilitate tourism
Updated: 2013-09-10 01:50
By Zhao Lei (China Daily)
Central Asian nations should take a host of measures to attract more Chinese travelers, according to a leading figure in China's tourism industry.
Tourism authorities in four key Central Asian countries — Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan — would do well to enhance their publicity efforts and provide Chinese-language guide services if they want to see more Chinese tourists in their nation, Dai Bin, head of the China Tourism Academy, told China Daily.
"Insufficient publicity, a shortage of Chinese-speaking guides as well as complicated visa application procedures have led to Chinese tourists avoiding these nations when choosing travel destinations," he said.
He said that applying for a visa to visit one of these countries is often more onerous than for destinations such as the United States.
Dai made the remarks as President Xi Jinping conducts a series of state visits to four Central Asian countries. This is the president's first tour of the region since he was elected China's top leader in March.
"In fact, the number of Chinese tourists to the four countries is very small," Dai said, noting that Kazakhstan, which has been the biggest recipient of Chinese tourists in recent years, witnessed only 250,000 Chinese visitors in 2012.
More than 83 million trips were made by Chinese tourists to foreign countries last year, according to the National Tourism Administration.
Though tourism industries in these nations have witnessed a rise in Chinese travelers, it is still too early for them to feel optimistic, Dai said.
"As far as I know, these countries reported a year-on-year increase of nearly 30 percent in the number of Chinese visitors last year, but most of the visitors went there for business purposes, not sightseeing."
There are barely any tour guides in Central Asian nations who are able to speak Chinese and only a handful of Chinese travel agencies have itineraries in these countries, he added.
Li Meng, deputy director of the outbound department of China International Travel Service, said his company has no routes to Central Asian countries because very few customers ask about tourism products to those areas, and even fewer end up actually making such a trip.
The relative lack of development in such countries is one factor that has tended to discourage Chinese visitors, as has the local food, which presents a range of flavors that are alien to many tourists.
"However, these countries can make use of these differences in terms of culture and food, presenting them as exotic appeal for foreigners," Dai suggested.
"But the first thing the tourism departments in these nations should do is to create more opportunities and platforms to enable Chinese people to learn about their countries."