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April 8, 2020

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More scenic attractions reopen as tourism recovers in China

As the novel coronavirus outbreak in China becomes more subdued, the country is gradually getting tourism back on its feet, travel restrictions are being eased, and more scenic attractions and museums are reopening.

For the past Qingming Festival, more than 43 million people around the country went out of home and enjoyed a sunny holiday — although down by 80 percent from the same period of last year.

Eight museums, including Shenyang Palace Museum, the imperial palace of several Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors, reopened to the public recently in Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, after months of being shutdown. However, with the threat of cross-infection still a danger, visitors must have their temperature checked on arrival, maintain a distance of 1.5 meters between each other in queues and wear masks during their stay.

The museum authorities also took measures, including real-time reservations, controlling visitor numbers and limiting opening hours to avoid overcrowding. Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 4,000 for the Shenyang Palace Museum.

“I’m quite reassured by the preventive measures taken by the museum. My family canceled our travel plans during the Spring Festival holiday. When the outbreak is over, we want to travel and relax,” said Zhao Yan, a Shenyang resident.

In northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, more than 100 tourist spots have resumed normal operation and many ski resorts have exempted or halved entrance fees to attract visitors.

“Tourists coded green can make reservations online and enjoy free skiing if they live in certain hotels,” said Liang Jing, manager of Jiangjunshan ski resort. Many provincial-level regions have introduced a health code monitoring system to control people’s movements.

Liang said the resort is not open to tourists who came from a virus-hit area or returned from abroad over the previous two weeks — but this restriction is just temporary.

The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region issued a guideline allowing package tour businesses between low-risk cities and counties within the region to return to normal and outdoor cultural venues and stadiums to reopen, while indoor theaters, ballrooms and Internet bars must remain shuttered.

As the epidemic control situation is improving in China, more than 30 percent of tourist sites on the Chinese mainland have reopened.

Tourism is among the industries hit hardest by the unexpected epidemic.

The China Tourism Academy estimated that domestic visits will see a reduction of 932 million in 2020 and the number will plummet in the first quarter — a 56 percent drop compared with that in 2019. Tourism-driven revenues will drop by 1.18 trillion yuan (US$167 billion) this year.

Known for its picturesque karst mountains and beautiful rivers, Yangshuo County in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region launched six measures to help local tourism pick up, such as exempting or reducing rent for tourism enterprises, providing subsidies for reopened tourist sites and cutting tax and fees for small and medium-sized firms.

Shanghai has provided financial aid for culture and tourism industries hit by the outbreak, including refunding deposits for travel agencies, allocating special funds for cultural and tourism development and providing aid for loans.

Companies and individuals in the tourism sector also took measures to save themselves. Live streaming platforms and travel agencies have teamed up with tourist sites to make online sightseeing more accessible.

China’s largest online travel agency in March launched presell products, including more than 1,000 travel routes and tickets to more than 300 tourist attractions. It also launched a revival plan involving 1 billion yuan for the tourism industry with its partners from home and abroad.

Xu Zihui, owner of a homestay near Mount Huangshan, a UNESCO world heritage site in east China’s Anhui Province, allowed customers to book discounted priced rooms for a period before June next year — she has received more than 100 orders so far.

Industry experts said domestic tourism will take the lead in recovering despite the fact that the epidemic has not ended and the global tourist market is reeling from the coronavirus shock.

Dai Bin, president of China Tourism Academy, said the general management and emergency capacity of China’s tourism sector has enhanced during the epidemic prevention and control.

“The cultural and tourism industry is trying to take a chance on the upcoming holidays with preferential policies,” said Jin Jianping, deputy general manager of Liaoning Tourism Investment Group.

“Travelers will be gradually come back and the tourism market in China will usher in a new phase of development when the epidemic is over.”


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