Photo taken on August 27, 2020, shows a 5G-driven mobile communication tower serving a cultural and tourism festival in Chongmudang village, Shaoyang, central China's Hunan province. (Photo by Zeng Yong/People's Daily Online)
Photo taken on August 27, 2020, shows a 5G-driven mobile communication tower serving a cultural and tourism festival in Chongmudang village, Shaoyang, central China's Hunan province. (Photo by Zeng Yong/People's Daily Online)

By Wang Ke, Tang Zhihong

Modern information technologies are transforming the tourism industry and speeding up the recovery of the tourism market in China amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While tourist destinations have introduced new technologies to enrich the experience of visitors and adopted intelligent management systems to improve services, new forms of business such as virtual travel, performances, and exhibitions have flourished.

Despite the attack of the virus, China’s tourism industry secured recovery and development in 2020. It is estimated that the number of domestic visitors received by tourist attractions across China and the country’s tourism revenue recovered by 79 percent and 69.9 percent during last year’s National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, respectively, on a comparable basis.

During the upcoming Tomb-sweeping Day holiday, or Qingming Festival, that falls on April 4 this year, China’s number of tourists is expected to return to the level of the same period in 2019, with 100 million trips to be made, as a research institute under Ctrip pointed out.

New tourism models brought about by the development of the Internet have grown rapidly in the country, further stimulating innovation in the modes of production, services and management, diversifying tourism products, and broadening the space for tourism consumption.

China is expected to witness its domestic tourism market receive average annual visits of 10 billion and tourist spending reach 10 trillion yuan ($1.52 trillion) in the next five years, according to a report released by the China Tourism Academy (CTA).

Noting that tourists are now able to search for travel agencies, travel tips, and book tickets to tourist destinations via online platforms, Dai Bin, director of the CTA, believes that modern information technologies symbolized by the Internet have driven constant innovation in traveling services.

The accelerated application of big data, cloud computing, mobile communications and smart terminals in the tourism industry has not only altered tourism consumption patterns, but brought changes to the way in which tourism services are supplied, Dai pointed out.

By digitalizing and improving services, scenic areas in China have allowed visitors to make reservations for tours at different periods of time, and ensured the monitoring and regulation of tourist traffic and smart parking, bringing more orderly and better traveling experience to tourists.

Meanwhile, tourist attractions have developed digital tour products and introduced smart services such as electronic maps, which have enriched consumers’ traveling experience.

In November 2020, ten government departments in China, including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, jointly issued guidelines on improving the business environment for deepening the integration of the Internet and tourism and empowering and advancing high-quality development of the tourism industry with digital technologies.

The guidelines specified that scenic spots and holiday resorts should act faster to improve the 5G network coverage and build more digitalized and intelligent parking lots, tourist service centers, and guiding sign systems.

It encourages entities such as tourist attractions, restaurants, and museums to cooperate with Internet service platforms to fulfill functions such as ticket booking, tourism information display, and the sale of cultural and tourism creative product online.

Meanwhile, the country is going to support efforts to summarize experience in the development of the all-for-one tourism model and to promote the model across the country, in a bid to create a batch of world-class tourist cities and tourist routes, according to the document.

By pushing forward with innovative projects that integrate the Internet with tourism, the country can better meet the rising demand for tourism consumption and release greater consumption potential in the tourism sector, according to a researcher at the tourism research center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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