SHI YU/CHINA DAILY
Summer vacation for the past few decades has been boom time for China's tourism industry. Tourism in various forms including study tours, family trips, group tours and leisure trips has shown an upward trend in July and August in the past years as schools and colleges are closed for the summer vacation during these two months.
But despite the novel coronavirus pandemic bringing China's tourism market to a virtual halt, the fact that China has largely contained the epidemic at home prompted the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to revise its trans-provincial group tour norms on July 14. The ministry's decision has inspired many people to plan trips within the country, injecting much-needed vitality into the tourism industry.
Online search for travel has soared while sharing information on travel agencies has increased. Which suggests the Chinese tourism industry may be on way to recovery.
Under the shadow of a possible second wave of infections, how travel agencies and tourist resorts adapt to the new reality and meet the new needs of tourists will decide the outcome of summer tourism this year.
Safety should always be the first priority. As such, in medium-and high-risk zones, tour groups cannot cross the provincial border without the approval of the local government. Travel agencies also have to reduce the size of tour groups. And since organizers will be held accountable for potential infection, they are expected to increase their vigilance against risks throughout a group's tour.
Due to the prior appointment clause, scenic spots can restrict the number of visitors to half the maximum capacity in order to reduce the flow of tourists. It will also prompt tour organizers to implement social distancing norms at tourist spots prone to congestion like ticket offices, shuttle bus stations, observation platforms and shops.
Apart from the epidemic, the travel agencies also have to take the floods sweeping across southern China into consideration and work out contingency plans to reduce risks, in particular for tourists who want to explore scenic spots on mountains and around water bodies.
Given the pandemic, potential tourists are paying more attention to effective pandemic control and high-quality service when choosing a travel agency, a flight or a hotel. They are also paying attention to hygiene, the environment, contingency plans, refund and insurance policies.
An online survey jointly conducted by the Tourism Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Tencent, a leading internet company, in April shows that despite people preferring intra-provincial tourism during a pandemic, many are planning to travel beyond provincial borders and their budgets are growing at a faster pace.
As trans-provincial group tours resume, travel agencies which can meet the new demands of tourists can make considerable profits. The boundary between boom tourism season and offseason is clear in China. It's common to see some businesses increase their prices and compromise on their service quality during the peak tourist season, leaving a bad impression on travelers.
The tourism industry's sustainable development depends on the integrity of travel agencies and other tourism-related enterprises. Since the domestic tourism market is expected to grow on the back of rising number of tourists during the summer vacation after months of stagnancy, the tourism industry should take measures to maintain market order and safeguard tourists' rights and interests.
The author is the director of the Tourism Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.
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