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New tourism cure

Su Zhou and Zheng Jinran
Updated: Sep 22,2014 12:08 PM     China Daily

People practice with hula hoops in a gym in Beijing.[Photo by Pang Zhengzheng/Xinhua]

Beijing plans to use traditional Chinese medicine and sporting events to attract more overseas visitors, an official from the capital’s tourism authority has said.

Wang Yue, deputy director of the Beijing Commission of Tourism, said the capital will promote TCM and some sporting events, such as the upcoming 2015 World Athletics Championships, the most important such event in China since the 2008 Olympic Games.

“Visitors stream into Beijing for major sporting events,” said Wang. “The 2008 Olympics is an excellent example. Beijing’s tourism industry in Beijing benefited enormously from that. So we intend to promote more of these as tourism products.”

TCM tourism products combine sightseeing opportunities with traditional health services such as massage and healthy cuisine. Seven major travel agencies in Beijing have been highlighting this since August.

Wang said she was confident in the health benefits of TCM for the capital’s tourism industry.

“Beijing is going to transform from a sightseeing destination into a more comprehensive vacation destination,” Wang added.

Over the past two years, Beijing has struggled with stimulating inbound tourism, while its outbound tourism has flourished. From January to July, the city received 2.36 million overseas visitors, a 5.9 percent year-on-year decline, according to the Beijing Bureau of Statistics.

The former single-most-popular Chinese destination for overseas tourists has been struggling amid a field of other cities and provinces. According to a Xinhua and Visa Inc report released on Sept 18, Tianjin, Beijing and Jiangsu province were listed as the top three popular destinations for inbound visitors.

Wang attributed the capital’s difficulty to a shortage of middle- and high-end tourism products. TCM and sports-related tourism products have been put forward to address this issue.

However, tourism experts said that TCM and sports tourism products alone are not enough to reinvigorate the inbound tourism market. They called for better exploitation of the existing tourism resources and improvement of the quality.

Wang Yanyong, director of the Tourism Development and Planning Research Center of Beijing Jiaotong University, said, “In the past, tourism in Beijing could be summarized as the ‘imperial tour’ because the scenic spots are all imperial palaces or mansions.

“To stimulate tourism, we need to show overseas visitors how ordinary people lived in old Beijing and how new Beijingers live now.”

Zhang Lingyun, deputy dean of the Tourism Institute of Beijing Union University, said the tourism resources that Beijing has decide that Beijing is a sightseeing-focused tourism destination.

“Beijing has to improve the quality of sightseeing products instead of molding itself as a leisure center,” Zhang said. “Normally, leisure-oriented tourism is related to the sea and beaches, or skiing and hot springs, none of which is Beijing’s strong point.”

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