Tourist attractions expect more visits with easing of controls on COVID-19
While the domestic tourism market took a heavy hit from the COVID-19 pandemic last year, it is poised to rebound as the outbreak has been successfully contained with a combination of effective measures.
The latest figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism show that domestic trips plummeted by 52.1 percent to around 2.88 billion last year.
Tourism-related revenue shrank by 3.5 trillion yuan ($541 billion) to 2.23 trillion yuan in 2020, according to the ministry.
Also, due to strict epidemic control measures, people spent less money on travel in 2020, the ministry said. The average expense for a trip was 774 yuan last year, a year-on-year fall of 18.8 percent.
"The epidemic was spreading very quickly at a time when the whole tourism industry had been blindsided. Tourism has very complex and long industrial chains, so we had to meet challenges when huge numbers of cancellations came," said Chen Gang, chief executive officer of Qunar, an online travel agency.
To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the tourism market has made great sacrifices, which brought huge financial losses.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a notice in late January 2020 requiring all travel agencies to suspend group travel packages. Outbound and inbound tourism were also suspended.
The industry soon plunged. Data from the ministry shows that in the first quarter of 2020, domestic trips dropped by 83.4 percent to around 295 million.
"When the epidemic put people's health in peril, travel agencies and all the tourism insiders suspended our services in response to the nation's call. Actually, so far, the side effects brought by the epidemic still exist," said Li Qiuyan, vice-president of Lvmama, an online travel agency.
She said that though the market was hit hard by the epidemic, it has been in a steady recovery since March thanks to official support and people's growing desire for travel after being quarantined at home for a long time.
"Since late March, cities like Shanghai and Beijing have loosened their controls on travel within the city, then tourism attractions were allowed to receive visitors of up to 30 percent of their capacity, which later rose to 50 percent and 70 percent," she said.
"The ministry and local authorities also gave supportive policies to tourism companies, such as cutting taxes and rents. We received more than 8 million yuan in refunds from the culture and tourism ministry. All these moves have given us courage and confidence," she added.
She said that the industry may face greater difficulties in 2021 as the effects of the epidemic continue, but adverse impacts can be reduced once mass vaccinations are implemented.