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Does China's Tourism Industry Have a 'Unique Selling Proposition'?

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Jingli Street in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Travel and Tourism

Slowly but surely, China is climbing in the World Tourism Organization of the United NationsWorld Tourism Barometer. France is still number one, with 84.5 million international tourist arrivals in 2015.

The United States comes in second, with 77.5 million international tourist arrivals, followed by Spain in third place, with 68.2 million international tourist arrivals.

China comes in fourth, with 56.9 million tourist arrivals.

Italy, Turkey, Germany, the United KingdomMexico, and Russia fill out the World Tourism Barometer’s top 10 list.

First in Asia

China attracts the largest number of international tourists in Asia followed by Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Macau, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, and Vietnam.

Somewhat surprisingly, Indonesia – the world’s fourth most populous country behind China, India, and the United States – doesn’t even make the World Tourism Barometer’s top 10 list.

This is despite that fact that Indonesia boasts Bali, a tourism powerhouse with spectacular scenery, fabulous hotels, wonderful restaurants, a fascinating culture, and warm, hospitable people.

China has come a long way, baby! During the tumultuous Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), the world’s most populous country was all but off limits to all but a limited number of tourists from all but a few comrade states such as Albania, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam.

China Opens Its Doors

When tourists from the rest of the world first started to arrive in China the late 1970s and early 1980s, they were greeted by surly customs officials, a crumbling infrastructure, decrepit hotels, and restaurants serving disgusting food.

Worst of all, there was a dual pricing system. “Foreign friends”, as they were euphemistically and patronizingly called, were charged double or more than locals were charged for the same shoddy goods and services.

But all that has changed. China is now a tourism tour de force to be reckoned with.

First there are the well-known tourist attractions.

Beijing

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The Forbidden City in Beijing. Photo Credit: Allen Timothy Chang.

As the nation's capital, Beijing boasts the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and countless other attractions. 

There are the traditional hutongs lined with with shaddy trees as well as tea houses, ancient temples, and courtyard homes.

Several hours from the city centre is the Great Wall of China, one the Seven Wonders of the World.

And don't forget the food! It's not for nothing that the Chinese capital is famous for Peking Duck - even if the recipe did originate in neighboring Shandong province.

Xi'an

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The drum tower is only one of numerous relics from Xi'an's illustrious past as a former imperial capital. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Xi’an is world famous for its 6,000-soldier Terra Cotta Army, one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.

Located in the city's distant suburbs, the museum where they are located is one of the first tourist attractions that many first time visitors to China want to see.

As a former imperial capital, however, Xi'an has many other attractions, as well. Among my favourites are the reconstructed ancient city wall, the Big Goose (with a great water and music show after dark), the Drum Tower, and the Muslim Quarter.  

Shanghai

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The imposing buildings of the Bund in Shanghai, brilliantly lit up at night. Photo Credit: Miguel A. Monjas.

Nothing quite prepares you for The Bund when viewed from the banks of the Whampoa River - especially after dark. The 1920s and 30s era stone buildings really are MUCH, MUCH more imposing in person than in photographs. 

From the bizarre architecture of Pudong to the imposing stone-clad edifices of the Bund, Shanghai – China’s largest city – has European style villas and Parisian style cafes in the old French Concession.

There are also Chinese style tea houses, trendy boutiques selling European fashions, and antique shops selling furniture that used to populate the elaborate homes of the rich and famous.

Twin Cities

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The city of Suzhou is criss-crossed by meandering canals. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Now only one hour’s high-speed bullet train ride from Shanghai, the twin cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou await.

Marco Polo once called Hangzhou the world's most beautiful city, and it is easy to understand why. Even today, it remains the stuff of a Chinese landscape painting.

The jewel in Hangzhou’s tourism crown is West Lake, which is surrounded gardens, temples, pagodas, and verdant hills. On the outskirts of town are the tea farms.

Suzhou is crisscrossed with canals, which are lined with some of China’s loveliest gardens.

The two cities are also known by foodies as the home of two of China's Eight Great Cuisines, which as sometimes collectively referred to as Huaiyang cuisine.

Sichuan

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The land-locked province of Sichuan is China's most populous province, and it is home to two of the country's most popular urban travel destinations: Chengdu and Chongqing.

You can visit the Panda Preserve near Chengdu, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in China.

With a population of close to 50 million people, Chongqing is now one of China's four "direct controlled municipalities", which means it is no longer politically a part of Sichuan province.

Chongqing is also a popular launch pad for cruises down the fabled Yangtze River.

As home to one of China's Eight Great Cuisines, Sichuan is most famous for its food, rivaling Guangdong as the Culinary Capital of China.

The Hinterland

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Pagodas at Lake Shan in Guilin. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

With its limestone cliffs, terraced rice paddies, and the meandering Li River, Guilin is considered by the Chinese to have the world's most beautiful landscape.

There are the five great mountains and the four great rivers. The vast Chinese hinterland is home to soaring peaks, majestic rivers, historic towns, and ancient villages.

There are grottoes and caves with artistic wall carvings, isolated monasteries, and an impressive panoply of countless other heritage sites to be explored.

Eight Great Cuisines

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Chinese regional cuisine varies from province to province, city to city, and town to town.

Not to mention the food. China is a vast country, and every province has its own distinct cuisine.

In terms of its linguistic, cultural, and culinary diversity, I like to think of China as more as a continent than a country.

Just as Italian cuisine is distinct from Greek cuisine, the cooking styles of Guangdong are equally distinct from the cooking styles of Sichuan.

Cantonese cuisine is noted for the enhancement of natural flavours whereas Sichuanese cuisine is famous for the liberal use of numbing peppers.

Foodies have identified Eight Great Cuisines as standing head and shoulders above the rest:

Anhui, Cantonese, Hunanese, Jiangsu, Lu (Shandong), Min (Fujian), Sichuanese, and Zhejiang.

In fact, each province has its own unique cooking style, and within each province cooking styles vary from village to village, town to town, city to city. 

Round Table Discussion

Does China’s tourism industry have a unique selling proposition? Let’s see what some tourism industry insiders have to say.

Steven Wang – Director of Sales and Marketing, Niccolo Chongqing.

The Niccolo Chongching is scheduled to open in August 2017. Located within an integrated commercial and residential complex, the hotel will have 252 rooms and 21 suites.

Does China's tourism industry have a unique selling proposition?

China has so much to offer – for both business and equally for tourists. There are still many places which are considered hot such as Beijing with its cultural wealth and art scene, scenic Shanghai, the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an.

However, there are new, relatively unknown destinations coming up such as the Shangri-La or Yunnan province in the south of China, with its picturesque mountain ranges and colourful ethnic minorities. 

Chengdu in Sichuan province is another one of these “to be explored” destinations. Of course Chengdu is famous for the panda bear breading stations, but it is also an exciting city for foodies.

Sichuanese food has a kick and is simply sensational wherever you enjoy it – in a top restaurant or from a street vendor, it’s never disappointing.

The Niccolo Chengdu is the latest luxury hotel addition in the city and provides via our “City Insiders” all the secrets and not-so-secret must see and do’s of Chengdu.  China has the richest tourism industry.

Blaise Jing – Regional Director for China, Preferred Hotels and Resorts

Preferred Hotels and Resorts, the world’s largest independent hotel brand, represents 22 distinctive independent properties with a cross section of hotels over four of its curated Collections – Legend, LVX, Lifestyle and Connect - in China’s key gateway cities of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Guangzhou, Chengdu, Dalian, and other secondary cities.

Does China's tourism industry have a unique selling proposition?

China has a very rich and vibrant history that spans five millennia, with a unique cultural heritage that already has a far-reaching influence around the world.

Chinese cuisine is also a huge selling feature – each province features different styles of culinary offerings - some have subtle nuances, others are more diverse in taste and in the unusual ingredients used.

Mark Passmore – General Manager of The Opposite House, a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts - Legend Collection.

Does China's tourism industry have a unique selling proposition?

Part of Swire Hotel’s The House Collective series, The Opposite House opened in August 2008, just in time for the Beijing Olympics.

Designed by an eminent Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the hotel has 99 rooms ranging from 45 square metres to 115-square-metre suites to a Penthouse duplex with an exclusive 240-square-metre rooftop terrace.

China is a very vast country that has developed quite rapidly over the past number of years. Each province has its own distinctive characteristics and customs so travelers will be exposed to different scenes as well a wide range of interesting food options.

Whether you are a city person or a lover of nature or looking to do some physical activity, China is the perfect country to visit!

Do some shopping and splurge in Beijing or Shanghai, hike the mountains in Sichuan province, experience Yunnan’s splendour of landscapes, or go mountain biking in Moganshan.

Getting around China is relatively convenient. Public transport in each city has been developed very well – there are subway tubes and buses.

Travelers may travel from one city to another city by bullet trains, airplanes, and luxurious, comfortable buses depending on distance. Tickets may be purchased online.

As mentioned, the food choice is very wide, and I would recommend for travelers to experience the local food to get to know the culture better.

For those of you who are less adventurous, China offers other favourites such as Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, and many others!

As far as hotel options go, China has one of the world’s best hotel selections at very good prices. Locals are very warm and welcoming and eager to help.

So in many ways, China is definitely a country everyone should visit!

David Low – Chief Executive Officer of Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai, a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts – Lifestyle Collection.

Does China's tourism industry have a unique selling proposition?

Yes, China has tremendous unique selling points and destinations beside Shanghai. From its culture to fashion to food and the people of China.

From the early seventies to now, there have been tremendous improvement in its infrastructure and technology, and I believe that in the next 20 years, China will be the leading country with high technology and infrastructure.

China’s highways are among the best in the world.

Daniel Wang – General Manager of Longemont Hotel Chengdu, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts – LVX Collection.

Does China's tourism industry have a unique selling proposition?

The Longemont Hotel Chengdu opened on 1 October 2016 with 785 rooms and suites, targeting both business and leisure travelers.

China is one of the four ancient civilizations in the world and has a long history of 5,000 years.

China also has an important position in the world cultural system. There are magnificent rivers and mountains, abundant resources of landscape, and world famous scenic spots, which are a precious natural and historical heritage.

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