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Crisis strikes Xi'an's tourism

Home to the Terracotta warriors, Xi'an is feeling the impact of a sharp drop of foreign tourists this year, local tourism operators said Thursday.


And if tourism continues to dip in the Northwest city, there is good reason for the warriors to turn into Terracotta "worriers", they said.


The ancient capital of 13 dynasties, with a history of more than 3,100 years, received only 551,000 international tourists (including arrivals from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan) in the first 10 months of this year, according to statistics on the official website of China National Tourism Bureau (CNTA).


The figure is down 37.55 percent from the same period last year, making it the country's sharpest tourism slump after Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.


Last year, tourism contributed to 15.7 percent of the GDP of Xi'an, which puts tourism on top of a list of five of its leading industries, the other four being culture, service, hi-tech and manufacturing.


A manager of the city's Hq Guesthouse surnamed Mei said she had seen several tourism operators shut shop over the past six months due to the slump in the industry.

In its bid to stay afloat, the guesthouse has cut its prices by half and shaved around 30 percent off the local Warriors tour, she said.


Xi'an Travel Service, another tourism firm, has also been forced to slash its prices.


Todd Subritsky, a spokesman with Sino-New Zealand Tourism Group Ltd, which brings foreign tour groups to Xi'an, said thousands of people in the ancient capital depended on tourism for a livelihood.


"But many of them are now wondering if they will still be in business this time next year," he said.


It's not just Xi'an, though its reliance on tourism highlights the threat that accompanies the dwindling of inbound tourists, but also several other cities that are bearing the brunt of the massive slump.


According to the latest CNTA statistics, the number of overseas arrivals in the country fell by 1.06 percent in the first 11 months of this year, compared with the 120 million visitors during the same period last year.


Chengdu, Qingdao and Wuxi have all seen a dramatic drop in international arrivals, all down by at least 10 percent in the same period.


Xu Yan, a CNTA official, said that the administration had started to carry out promotions in various major tourism markets in a bid to fight the detrimental effects of the global economic downturn.


In December, two CNTA deputy chiefs headed delegations to the US and Australia to promote tourism in China.


But industry insiders like Liu are looking for more than just organized promotions.


"We hope the government will consider realigning our currency more accurately to account for the severe reductions in foreign currencies," she said.


"Like exporters, we too are taking a beating with current rates."


(China Daily December 26, 2008)