Really? The above headline, which actually appeared late March in the Bangkok Post (see below), seems to be indicative, lately, of the sort of news generated by the travel and tourism industry and government officials who have come to rely on the industry as it has grown to be a major economic force in the past decade in Asia.
A sampler of some of the coverage of travel and tourism developments as the coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the world shows fear, alarm and despair but, also, as new cases of the virus have leveled off within China itself, the upbeat headlines illustrate a sort of willful, official optimism:
—In the same article cited above, we are told, “Chinese tourists expect to resume their travels in April as new coronavirus infections subside, while Thai tourism officials aim to apply a safety and health administration program to help operators upgrade their ability to deal with the pandemic.”
—Also, outbound tour operators in China have informed partners in Thailand that two provinces, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, have lifted travel restrictions but citizens are likely to venture out within their own provinces first, said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
—According to the results of a new survey by the Joint Tourism Big Data Lab of the China Tourism Academy and Ctrip, and as reported by CGTN, “the coming month of May is likely to see the tourism industry pick up, as 16 percent of the respondents showed a willingness to travel in that month that goes with a five-day public holiday, according to the report. Summer season from June to August also proved to be a popular option.” Of course, most respondents were talking about domestic travel.
—Within the same time frame, China’s official press agency, the Xinhua News Agency, reported that eight museums in Shenyang reopened; and that a total of 3,714 tourist sites in 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on the Chinese mainland had reopened, accounting for over 30 percent of the total. In addition, over 180 museums had reopened, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
—While most of what is being reported has to do with domestic tourism—for the moment, international air traffic to and from China has effectively shut down—ADARA, a research firm based in Silicon Valley, said it has seen a small uptick in the number of flight searches from Chinese travelers. Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer at ADARA, said: “We are seeing subtle but meaningful changes across flight bookings and searches for China travel.
Why It’s So Important to China
Of course, no one in the international inbound travel industry needs a script to understand—or tell someone else about—the industry’s economic importance. But in China, it is even an official canon of economic development policy.
You see, in 2016, China’s State Council issued a
national plan for the development of tourism industry in the 13th Five-Year
Plan period (2016-2020). The reasoning was that China’s growing middle
class could stimulate the nation’s economy through infusions of the disposable
income they now had on travel.
According to the plan, China would strive to develop tourism into the major driver of economic transformation and upgrading. The plan laid out the development goal for the tourism industry during aimed at reaching annual growth in number of tourists, tourism revenue, and tourism investment of 10 percent, 11 percent, and 14 percent, respectively. It is now questionable whether those goals will be achieved.
However, once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, international air traffic is back and buses are rolling, Chinese consumers just might be ready—if not encouraged (Remember: “Chinese Tourists Ready to Break Out” —to travel abroad again.