With tourism still bouncing back from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, industry players continue to innovate and reinvent themselves to attract travelers.
As the year draws to a close and the industry is yet to make a full recovery, we look back on major tourism stories of the year, marking a tumultuous period of ups and downs.
1 Cruise quarantine
In February, 3,711 people were quarantined aboard cruise ship Diamond Princess in Yokohama, Japan, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus. This led to a mass cancellation of cruise trips, marking the beginning of a global tourism recession.
2 Virtual tourism
Major scenic spots around the globe began offering virtual travel experiences for people cooped up at home in March. Liang Jianzhang, chairman and cofounder of Trip.com started a wave of tourism promotion through livestreaming, selling 8,000 nights of hotel stays in 1 minute and 41 sets of "hotel+ scenic spot tickets" per second. Potala Palace in the Tibet autonomous region, the Palace of Versailles in France, and the British Museum also launched live online tours.
3 Labor Day recovery
China's tourism saw strong recovery during the May Day holiday. With epidemic control measures in place, the tourism market recovered to 50 percent of the level during the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. There was a total of 115 million domestic tourists during the holiday, generating a revenue of 47.56 billion yuan. A total of nine provinces, including Guangdong and Fujian, saw tourist numbers exceed 10 million each. Tourism revenue exceed 10 billion yuan in Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, respectively. Scenic spots across the country limited visitor numbers to no more than 30 percent of their maximum capacity during the holiday.
4 Cross-provincial tourism
Travel agencies were given permission by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism on July 14 to resume group tours that crossed provincial borders, following suspension due to the pandemic. The limit on visitor numbers allowed in tourist attractions was also increased from 30 to 50 percent of maximum capacity. Less than an hour after the restriction was lifted, the number of searches for trans-provincial group tours on online travel agency Qunar jumped nearly 400 percent. Another online travel agency, Trip.com, saw searches on its own site surge to about 500 percent.
More than 227,000 inbound tourists－88 percent of whom came from the Chinese mainland－visited the region in August, according to the Macao Special Administrative Region's Statistics and Census Service. From Sept 23, all domestic tourists from low-risk regions can apply for tourist endorsement to visit Macao. In September, the SAR government prepared coupons worth $36.3 million for mainland tourists to use in hotels and various shops.
6 Fliggy subsidies
Alibaba's online travel arm, Fliggy, initiated a 10 million yuan subsidy program in early September. The program covered tens of thousands of hotels across the country, as well as transportation and access to scenic spots and theme parks. During the second week of September, hotel bookings for the National Day holiday surged by 190 percent from the previous week, and air ticket sales increased by 160 percent.
7 Fly at will
From June, a dozen domestic airline companies, including Hainan Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, launched fly-at-will schemes. Tourists quickly snapped up all the fly-at-will flight tickets. Those who bought China Eastern's "unlimited weekend flights" package for 3,322 yuan redeemed more than 65,000 tickets from June 27 to 28, and nearly 90,000 trips were made using the promotion from July 4 to 5.
8 Preemptive rights
The Universal Beijing resort launched 10,000 "preemptive right" packages on Oct 21, which sold out in just 131 seconds. Similar packages launched on Oct 23 and 28 were also sold out within seconds. Customers who bought these packages have the right to buy tickets five days before general sale and can choose when to visit the theme park. Overall construction of the park is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
9 Tibetan icon
Tenzin (Dingzhen in Mandarin), a 20-year-old from Litang county in Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture, was appointed to promote tourism in Litang after attracting online attention when a video of him smiling broadly in traditional Tibetan costume was uploaded on Douyin, known as TikTok internationally. Tenzin then posted a short video introducing his white horse, attracting millions of views and followers. The Tenzin effect caused searches for Litang on Trip.com from Nov 23 to 29 to shoot up 620 percent compared to the previous week.
10 5A rating
China is planning to grant another 21 tourist attractions 5A rating, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said earlier in December.
The tourist zone of Daming Palace in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, one of the imperial palaces that date back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.), and the Taohuayuan scenic area, in Central China's Hunan province, are among the selected attractions.Being the topmost level in China's tourist attraction rating system, a 5A rating indicates exceptional overall tourism quality.