Foreigners zoom into Chinese tourism market during May Day holidays

Foreign tourists visit a Zhangjiajie scenic spot in Central China's Hunan Province on May 4, 2024. Photo: VCG

Foreign tourists visit a Zhangjiajie scenic spot in Central China’s Hunan Province on May 4, 2024. Photo: VCG

As the five-day May Day holidays came to an end on Sunday, China welcomed a bustling inbound tourism sector thanks to the country’s cost-effective tour products as well as improved measures for foreign visitors, including visa-free policies and optimized payment services.

Experts said that booming tourism during the May Day holidays confirmed the attractiveness of the Chinese market for overseas travelers, and the improving environment for foreigners further showcased the country’s commitment to opening-up.

According to a report sent to the Global Times on Sunday, Trip.com said that inbound tour bookings increased by 105 percent year-on-year with the remarkable effect of the visa-free policies. 

Tourists from the 12 countries for which China unilaterally waived visas, along with Singapore and Thailand, which have mutual visa exemptions with China, increased by about 2.5 times year-on-year, read the report. Among Chinese provincial capital cities, inbound tour orders grew faster in Urumqi, Xi’an, Hangzhou, Kunming, Hefei and Chengdu.

Walking on the street, people could see UK tourists wearing traditional Chinese hanfu for travel photos at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. In Dongxing, South China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Vietnamese tourists took a bus to visit the cultural bazaar, enjoying a different journey involving China-Vietnam border customs.

“During a trip with my friends, I took a leisurely stroll around Jinhai Lake in the Pinggu district of Beijing. It was a breathtaking experience, immersed in the natural beauty of China. Green spaces surrounded the lake, and fresh breezes filled the air, creating a serene atmosphere,” Ahmed Abdellah Faris, a journalist from Egypt, told the Global Times on Sunday.

China’s mobile payment system is extremely convenient, with WeChat Pay and Alipay offering both ease of use and security. Additionally, Beijing, as an international metropolis, widely accepts Visa payments, providing numerous options for foreigners, he added.

“I also appreciate Beijing’s subway system, which is extensive and affordable, with most trains maintained in a clean condition. Subway staff members readily provided directions in English, museum guides offered high-quality English explanations, and restaurant owners inquired whether we followed Muslim dietary restrictions. These thoughtful details made me feel warmly welcome in Beijing,” he said.

The development of inbound tourism not only serves as a symbol of China’s opening-up, but also marks the country’s transition from being a major tourist destination to becoming a power in the global tourism arena, Jiang Yiyi, a vice president of the School of Leisure Sports and Tourism at Beijing Sport University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

In addition to visa-free measures and an array of measures to help foreigners enjoy a hassle-free payment environment, the restoration of international flights is progressing steadily. 

“In the first half of this year, I believe that the country has resumed more than 80 percent of the international routes, compared with pre-pandemic levels,” Jiang said.

Outbound trips were also in the spotlight. According to Trip.com, Chinese outbound tours covered nearly 200 countries during these five days, with Southeast Asia, Japan and South Korea becoming popular destinations. 

The tourism growth rate for countries in the Middle East such as Oman, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait was higher, with a year-on-year increase of more than three times.

On Saturday, the Cuban government announced that it will adopt a visa-free policy for Chinese citizens holding ordinary passports starting from May, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.

“China has been one of the world’s biggest outbound tourism markets, making a substantial contribution to global tourism development, particularly in the post-pandemic recovery period. Outbound tourism has played a significant role in promoting economic development and offering job opportunities in many countries,” Jiang said.

Steven Alan Barnett, senior IMF resident representative in China, said on April 24 at the launch of the IMF World Economic Outlook in Beijing that China will continue to be the main driver of the global economy, contributing one-quarter to the world’s GDP. 

Finnish Film Night fosters China-Finland cinematic exchange in Beijing

A Finnish movie screening night is held in Beijing on April 23, 2024. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

A Finnish movie screening night was held in Beijing on Tuesday to foster collaboration and exchange between professionals in the Chinese and Finnish film sectors.

The spotlight of the event was on Death is a Problem for the Living, a compelling new Finnish film that delves into the complexities of addiction, friendship, and the unexpected journey of carrying the departed to their final resting place.

Death is a Problem for the Living has been nominated for the Tiantan Award for Best Picture at the 14th Beijing International Film Festival.

Tourism in third-, lower-tier cities set to boom over May Day holidays

Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Daxing International Airport

Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Daxing International Airport

Chinese third- and fourth-tier cities – and even smaller ones – are set to be popular during the upcoming May Day holidays, per industry data, as market watchers said the trend shows that China’s tourism market is steadily recovering, which will further boost consumption. 

According to data from Ctrip, China’s online travel agency, domestic long-distance travel bookings account for 56 percent of total orders during the May Day holidays, with many tourists opting for lower-tier cities as their destinations. Hotel bookings in county-level markets have seen a year-on-year increase of 68 percent, while orders for scenic spot tickets surged by 151 percent.

Driven by concerts, music festivals and social media accounts of local authorities, third-tier and lower-tier cities have seen a surge in popularity. Data from Tongcheng Travel show that compared with core cities, there has been a relatively larger increase in demand for train and plane tickets to third-tier and lower-tier cities during the upcoming holidays.

The hotel booking index for third-tier and below cities has increased by 76 percent year-on-year, nearly a threefold increase compared with 2019. The popularity of train and plane tickets to third-tier and below cities during the May Day holidays has increased by more than 360 percent on a week-on-week basis, according to Tongcheng Travel.

Changing consumer habits could be one of the reasons, which means people are shifting away from crowded popular cities and attractions toward places with unique natural landscapes and local customs, Wang Jinwei, an associate professor at the Tourism Sciences Institute of Beijing International Studies University, told the Global Times.

 

Driven by the rural revitalization strategy, efforts to promote rural civilization have created a favorable cultural environment, and this trend has brought more popularity to rural regions, Wang explained.

Zhang Zonggang, a Beijing resident, told the Global Times she plans to visit Mangshi, a city in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, with her relatives during the coming holidays. “We prefer to avoid crowded places as we’ll be with children and are seeking to experience the leisurely and tranquil lifestyle of the small town. It’s also cost-effective compared with the first-tier cities.”

Market watchers said that rising travel demand in third- and lower-tier cities will boost consumption.

China’s GDP grew by 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2024, well above market expectations as the world’s second-largest economy got off to a robust start. Data from National Bureau of Statistics showed that retail sales grew 4.7 percent year-on-year to 12.03 trillion yuan ($1.66 trillion) in the first quarter.

The popularity of tourism in third-tier and lower-tier cities will not decline; instead, it will become a major trend for Chinese tourists, said Deng Ning, a vice dean of the Tourism Sciences Institute at Beijing International Studies University.

An appetizing approach to food

Jerusalem artichoke mousse with edible moss crisps, sun-dried tomatoes and glasswort flowers. CHINA DAILY

Health, nature and sustainability are three concepts that find tangible expression through the art of cuisine in a courtyard nestled in Beijing’s vibrant Sanlitun area.

Lamdre, a vegetarian fine dining restaurant, turns fresh, seasonal ingredients into an art form, aligning the healthy, culinary experience with the natural environments from which these ingredients are sourced. The eatery, which only opened in late 2022, has risen to prominence both at home and abroad for its delectable offerings and innovative philosophy.

According to owner Zhao Jia, its philosophy lies in “advocating a lifestyle that aims to infuse the beauty of nature into the lives of those who embrace mindfulness”.

In October, Lamdre earned a star in this year’s Beijing Michelin Guide. Then in January, it received a diamond rating in the Black Pearl Restaurant Guide, making it one of the few restaurants in Beijing to achieve recognition from both prestigious lists.

Adding to the accolades, Lamdre’s star also shone at the recent awards ceremony for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, clinching this year’s American Express One to Watch Award.

“The dining experience at Lamdre is exquisite — from the serene ambience to the refined dishes that pay homage to nature’s abundance. Chef Dai Jun and owner Zhao have introduced a concept that is refreshingly distinct and this accolade is well-deserved,” said William Drew, director of content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Food blogger Li Xiaonan, who has 734,000 followers on micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo, commented that the restaurant is a pioneer for its lifestyle philosophy, and focuses on selecting the finest seasonal vegetables. “By skillfully cooking these ingredients to highlight their natural flavors, the restaurant offers … an experience of nature’s true essence,” he says.