Cover Story

China calling

Updated: 2011-07-08 10:47

By David Bartram (China Daily European Weekly)

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Morrell notes that China can now provide an exciting destination for groups that did not previously fit into the typical demographic of China visitors, including families. While her tour group is beginning to take bookings of this nature, there is still clearly room for growth.

China calling
Author Brian Lawrenson retraced Marco Polo's footsteps from Venice to Beijing for his book Following Marco Polo's Silk Road, published in 2009.

"I think China is a good location for a family holiday as long as you don't take the children when they are too young," she says. "There is a certain point where it is actually quite fun and interesting for children. Last year I organized a trip for a family who wanted to do things like go and see the pandas and then spend a week in Hainan for a week. That's the kind of thing that's developing now."

Whether China can continue to increase numbers - and revenue - from its European visitors over the next few years is yet to be seen. The tourist sector is notoriously competitive, and has been hit hard by the economic downturn. If China is to become the world's most popular tourist destination, it still has plenty of work to do.

"China's tourism authorities must understand that for most of the foreign tourists, visiting China will be a lifetime experience," Grayson Clarke, of the EU-China Social Security Reform Project, noted in China Daily in March. "Such people would want to see the best instead of a series of second-rate attractions. The focus should be on developing tourist hubs with site-packed itineraries, and making transport links tourist-friendly and reducing prices, particularly of air tickets."

The benefits of taking such steps will not only be enjoyed by foreign visitors. Infrastructure development, particularly travel, will help other industries grow. As more and more Chinese citizens enjoy higher disposable incomes, the domestic tourism industry is growing even faster than the international sector.

"With the continuing rapid growth of the domestic tourism industry, China may be tempted to think that apart from the prestige factor, attracting more international tourists is not important," says Clarke. "But what China does for international tourists today will affect its ability to maintain the growth of the domestic tourism industry in the future."

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