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Marketing effort pays dividends

Zheng Xin
Updated: May 12,2015 10:35 AM     China Daily

The Chinese mainland’s global marketing effort since 2013 to increase inbound tourism is paying off. The country now ranks 17th in global travel and tourism competitiveness, up from 45th in 2013, according to the latest survey by the World Economic Forum.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the Chinese mainland was ranked sixth by the survey, which was released on Wednesday, behind Australia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

“The Chinese mainland is very rich in its natural and cultural resources, but many foreign visitors’ perception of it as a tourism destination is limited to the Great Wall, Tian’anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven,” said Yang Jinsong, a professor of international tourism at the China Tourism Academy. “The truth is there is more than the Imperial Palace to explore on the mainland.”

Beijing has been ramping up its tourism marketing globally in the past two years, including TV advertisements on CNN, the BBC, the National Geographic Channel and Fox.

The cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Guilin and Xi’an allow transit passengers to visit without a visa for two to three days, and the cities have also organized promotions for their visa waiver policy in European and US cities.

Beijing said it is also considering a tax refund program that would allow foreign visitors to claim refunds on purchases at shopping malls.

The World Economic Forum survey, conducted every two years, measures the competitiveness of 141 countries and economies based on 14 criteria, including business environment, travel and tourism policies, infrastructure quality and natural resources.

Spain became No 1 for the first time, followed by France, Germany and the United States. The UK, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Japan and Canada make up the remaining top 10 destinations.

The report said the competitive gap between advanced economies and emerging markets is closing.

Despite the Chinese mainland’s progress in global competitiveness, Yang said, pollution, traffic congestion and tourism infrastructure are still undermining its competitiveness.

“Pollution is the major culprit in preventing many overseas visitors from coming to Beijing,” he said. “The consistent and notorious smog is not an invitation but a warning against visiting, and no one wants to spend their vacation choking in hazy smog.”

Compared with other world-class tourist destination cities, Beijing has a lot of work to do to fully tap the potential of its tourism resources, he said.