Aerial photo taken on January 11, 2020 shows tourists enjoying themselves at the Wuzhizhou Island in Sanya, south China's Hainan Province. (Photo: Xinhua)
China's battered tourism industry has begun to reemerge as the COVID-19 epidemic recedes in China. Many scenic spots in regions with low risks have reopened to tourists, bringing hope to an industry that has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
Cao Aizhen, 49, was relieved to finally see tourists arrive in his home county in East China's Jiangxi Province.
Cao lives in Wuyuan, dubbed "China's most beautiful village." Every spring, millions of tourists visit the village to see its "sea of cole flowers." The splendid natural beauty brings Cao and 100 other villagers over 6 million yuan ($848,100) each year.
"Last year, it was a challenge to book a room," said Wu Xiangyang, chairman of a local scenic area. "This year, all of us were unprepared for the hit from the novel coronavirus."
With the epidemic leveling off in China and tourist sites starting to reopen, the country's tourism industry is showing signs of recovery.
"In the past few days, we have seen online bookings rebound with over 20 rooms booked a day at most," said Wu.
The domestic travel industry takes up a big share of China's economic growth, contributing 10.94 trillion yuan to the country's GDP and creating 28.25 million jobs last year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
The ministry also revealed that more than 10 percent of China's employed population, 79.9 million people, worked in tourism-related sectors last year.
However, the epidemic halted the booming industry during the peak travel period of the Chinese Spring Festival holiday, and the impact rippled across almost all business sectors.
A report published by the China Tourism Academy (CTA) predicted that the industry might see a 56 percent slump in the number of domestic tourists in the first quarter, with the domestic tourism market's total revenue expected to drop by 20 percent, or 1.18 trillion yuan, in 2020.
But now, things are turning around with multiple indices pointing to revived confidence and willingness to travel.
The latest report conducted by China's largest online travel agency trip.com showed that by mid-March, more than 1,000 tourist sites had reopened to visitors across the country, of which over 100 were 5A attractions, the country's highest rating for scenic spots.
Jiangxi has seen all 12 of its 5A attractions and 94 4A-rated scenic spots reopen, according to the local culture and tourism bureau.
Mount Sanqingshan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reopened on February 22 and received almost 20,000 tourists in the 20 days following, said Yu Honghu, an employee at the local scenic spot.
"Market fundamentals supporting the operation of the tourism industry have not changed, and there is a great possibility that domestic tourism consumption will bottom out and rebound," said Dai Bin, president of the CTA, adding that the academy is optimistic for China's tourism market in 2020. While the industry gears up for post-epidemic opportunities, there are no signs that it is relaxing its prevention and containment efforts.