SHANGHAI, 11 January (BelTA - China Daily) - China downgraded its COVID-19 prevention and control measures from Category A to Category B from Sunday, and scrapped the circuit breakers for international flights to ensure Chinese people can travel abroad. This essentially means the authorities have pressed the "acceleration button" for the recovery of the tourism industry which has been in a temporary coma for three years. Category B measures mean free movement of people but not the end of the pandemic.
This major policy decision is a turning point for China's domestic and foreign tourism. In fact, the Ministry of Transport has said it will gradually resume international road transport services for passengers following restoration of passenger entry and exit services at dry ports on Jan 8. The National Immigration Administration, too, announced the optimization of the immigration management policy and measures from Jan 8. The NIA has also resumed the issuing and approval of ordinary passports for Chinese citizens traveling abroad in an orderly manner, as well as restarted processing visas for Chinese mainland residents traveling to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for leisure or business.
People's pent-up urge to travel is very strong. Searches for "outbound travel" and "visa" skyrocketed on many online travel platforms including Ctrip, Tongcheng and Qunar. With the implementation of related policies, and airlines increasing their operating capacity, the supply and demand of air tickets, both domestic and foreign, will gradually return to normal and the overall price of international tickets will decrease to the pre-pandemic level. And inbound and outbound air travel is likely to peak during the summer vacation.
Over the past three years, to cope with the impacts of the pandemic, the vast majority of travel companies have downsized their staff and reduced their operations to survive. Also, a considerable number of them have either gone out of business or are semi-closed. Therefore, travel companies still have a lot of preparation, promotion and warm-up to do to capitalize on the government's move which is expected to hasten the tourism sector's recovery.
First, the travel companies should be realistic and closely watch the policy trends and changes, make foolproof plans, reasonably invest funds, sensibly utilize human and other resources, and increase their operational capacity according to their respective conditions. At the same time, tourism facilities such as scenic spots, star-rated hotels and cable cars should carry out thorough safety risk and infrastructure investigations in strict accordance with specific rules, and take measures to eliminate the potential safety hazards to fortify their operations with a blueprint for dealing with emergencies.
Second, related parties should carefully study and judge the demand for travel, continuously improve and update tourism products, strive to create personalized, complex and professional high-quality leisure and entertainment products, upgrade their services and avoid blindly developing tourism business by wasting resources.
Over the past few years, the travel market has seen some structural changes, especially because of the pandemic. The upstream and downstream of the tourism industry chains have undergone drastic changes. Facing consumers with more diverse travel habits and demands, digital transformation and industrial integration have become part of the tourism sector's mainstream.
Also, the tourism industry should actively promote cross-industry integration, cooperate with the cultural, healthcare, technology and education sectors, as well as the media, and further explore multi-element fusion products and business models such as intellectual property and research and development.
The global health emergency is not over, and infections in China are on the rise. And due to the differences in the flow of people, population density and immunity levels, the peak time of the epidemic will vary from place to place. As a result, the recovery of the tourism sector in different regions will depend on the epidemic situation.
Besides, the recovery of the tourism industry is a dynamic process. The tourism industry will take time to overcome the obstacles created by the reduction in people's incomes or the psychological buffer period required to emerge from the impacts of the epidemic. And on the supply side, travel companies will need time to replace the loss of experienced and seasoned personnel.
The tourism industry will more likely than not recover in sequences. The domestic tourism industry, which is dominated by popular theme parks and tour of cities, will be the first to see an increase in tourist flow. With the tourism sector expected to benefit from the Spring Festival Golden Week holiday, the domestic tourism industry will gradually recover first, and popular tourist cities in Hainan, Sichuan, Yunnan and Jilin provinces are likely to see a flood of tourists ahead of other Chinese cities.