Editor’s Note: China will stage its annual largest political event－the “two sessions”－in less than 10 days. At the gatherings, the country’s top legislators and political advisers－ more than 5,000 from all walks of life－ will discuss the most pressing political, economic and social issues, and map the country’s development blueprint for the next five years. Starting today, China Daily will take a close look at a series of hot topics and catchphrases for this year’s sessions.
Tourism industry on the march: China, the largest market for outbound tourism, has seen rapid growth in the number of overseas trips and consumption, according to the China National Tourism Administration and the National Bureau of Statistics.
The industry has become a leading force driving economic growth. Last year, it contributed more than 10 percent of the nation’s GDP.
The rapid growth in the sector has absorbed more workers at a time when overall labor growth is slowing. The industry created 78.7 million jobs in 2014, accounting for 10.2 percent of national employment.
Wen Xiaoyan, a retiree, trades stocks on her computer, cooks for her family and takes care of her aged father-in-law in Beijing.
But her domestic burden will be lightened once her maid returns to the capital after her trip home for Spring Festival.
Before the holiday, Wen had just returned from Hokkaido in Japan after visiting about 30 countries in the world during the past few years.
Once her maid returns, she will be ready for another trip － this time to Israel, and four more journeys are also planned for this year, including a specially designed summer tour to Scandinavia.
Overseas tours have increasingly become part of the lifestyle for people living in China’s urban areas. In 2014, Chinese spent 1.2 trillion yuan ($180 billion) on such tours.
But international tourism forms only a small part of the sector. Last year, the domestic tourism industry catered to more than 4 billion visitors and saw revenue estimated at 4 trillion yuan.
According to Hu Angang, an economics professor at Tsinghua University, in the next five years, or during the period covered by China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), the domestic tourism industry is expected to cater to 6.5 billion visitors.
The country’s retail volume will double from 3 trillion yuan last year to 6 trillion yuan during this period, according to Hu.
“This means that right now we’re on the threshold of a golden age for Chinese consumption,” supported by “probably the largest consumer middle-class in the world”.
The 13th Five-Year Plan, which is subject to approval by the annual session of the National People’s Congress starting on March 5, includes China’s first long-term government program aimed at helping this consumer group to grow and to serve its interests.
“China will not only be a factory for the world, it will be a market for the world,” Hu said.
“Chinese consumers will be buying all the choice goods from everywhere in the world, like US consumers after the victory in World War II.”
In the process, China’s prosperity will benefit the world economy in more important ways, Hu said.
Online purchases, which have already exceeded 4 trillion yuan a year, will probably increase by three to four times, he said.
These new middle-class consumers will trigger rising demand not only for goods, but also for services such as education, healthcare, culture, retirement care and tourism, especially in rural China, Hu added.