The relationship between two countries is based on the affection between two Peoples. As a direct form of people-to-people exchange, and due to its extensive participation and simple objective, tourism is playing a more and more important role in enhancing the affection between people and boosting understanding, thus enriching the content and form of people-to-people exchange. Currently, Chinese tourists have become the world¡¯s biggest-spending travelers¡ªwith their rich ideas and deep pockets, more and more Chinese traveled abroad proudly to realize their ambition of viewing the outside world. Statistics showed that in 2015, the scale of domestic tourism of China exceeded 4 billion person*times, and the scale of outbound tourism reached 1.2 trillion person*times, with a total tourism consumption of 4 trillion yuan RMB. The frequency of domestic tourism, outbound tourism and tourism consumption at abroad of China all ranked first all over the world.
I. New features of outbound tourism of Chinese tourists
1. Both the number of tourists and tourist income rose rapidly, showing great development momentum.
Statistics showed that since 2004, the numbers of outbound tourists and their consumption have both sustained double-digit growth and have been ranking the world¡¯s largest for three successive years. According to the annual statistic data launched by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on January 18, 2016, in 2015, the outbound tourism trips of the world registered a year-on-year growth of 4.4 percent, hitting a record 1.18 billion, with China remaining on the top of the largest outbound tourist source countries. Statistics launched by China National Tourism Administration also showed that only during the 2016 Spring Festival period, the number of outbound tourists of China has already reached 6 million. According to the measurement of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the integrated contribution of tourism industry to the GDP of China was 10.1 percent, higher than those of education, banking or automobile industry. The employed population of Chinese tourism industry accounts for 10.2 percent of the national total, estimated by China National Tourism Data Center.
2. The mainstream outbound tourists of China have undergone the transformation from elite to ordinary people.
The early-stage outbound tourists were mainly composed of elites in various sectors, officials and business executives and they usually participated in organized team travel for conducting inter-governmental exchange or business negotiation, which were very high-end in the eyes of people at that time. With the growing of outbound tourists number, the levels of exchange have been diversifying and gradually expanded from ¡°professional¡± and ¡°high-end¡± to ¡°usual¡± and ¡°ordinary¡±. Just as the beginning of this article wrote, ordinary people were also of great desire of traveling abroad, especially young people. According to statistics offered by the tourism column of sina.com.cn, 82.7 percent of the outbound tourists were aged between 15 and 30, while this group is expected to travel more frequently, observe the world more objectively, and understand more thoroughly the similarities and differences between nations, peoples and cultures. From this perspective, we can say that tourism is not only an industry, but also an internationalized lifestyle and communicate method promoting the mutual understanding and tolerance among people of the world.
3. The transition from ¡°Chinese tourists adapting foreign cultures¡± to ¡°mutual adapting between Chinese and foreign cultures¡± has been realized.
¡°Travel etiquette¡± was the most frequently emphasized issue in the job of the national tourism authorities in recent years. Surveys showed that the most unpopular behaviors of the Chinese tourists at abroad included shouting, readily graffiti and children defecate. As an international tourism organization initiated by China, the World Tourism Cities Federation once investigated the source of these impolite behaviors. During the investigation, we got to know many different explanations from tourists, for instance, the reason of speaking loudly was because they were at abroad and facing language barriers, loud voice can help them keep in touch with each other, enhance their sense of security and draw the attention of guides. Children defecate was also due to language barrier which exacerbated their difficulties in finding the appropriate places for dealing with such issues. We should be brave to face these problems. However, on the other side, we also feel perplexed: are these problems rooted from cultural differences or distances among civilizations? To some extent, the international tourism destinations of the Chinese tourists are of the problem of solely pursuing the profit of Chinese tourism market, and they were not well prepared in terms of municipal management, convenient service and cultural interaction under the circumstance of influx of tourists.
Due to cultural differences, foreign tourists could also bring irritation to the Chinese people. For instance, in a global sports event held in China, the organizing committee received a number of phone calls complaining that some western athletes were enjoying celestial sun bath on outdoor lawns, which made the volunteers and delegates of other countries very embarrassed. When the organizing committee sent a notice on this issue, some bath takers responded instantly: Beijing is pretty sunny and celestial sun bath is a healthy and lofty lifestyle. Is there anything to be blamed? It seems not. However, from the perspective of local residents, this ¡°normal¡± behavior is really difficult to accept.
Before the 21st century, tourists from developed countries were the mainstream of the global tourism market, and the rules were formulated based on the situations of them. However, currently, while enjoying the handsome income brought by the explosive growth of the Chinese tourists, tourism destinations are also suffering the incomprehension and maladjustment brought by cultural differences. With the convergence of the interaction between tens of millions of Chinese outbound tourists and various tourism destinations, the exchange of numerous ¡°dots¡± gradually turned into all-round ¡°plane¡± contact, thus making both tourists and administrators of global tourism destinations feel pleasantly surprised while amazed. Various differences call for mutual adaption and mutual understanding, so as to bridge the emotional distance among people of different cultures, different backgrounds and different religions in the process of face-to-face communication.
II. International tourism cooperation: establishing consensus in the process of exploration
At present, renowned tourism destinations and international tourism corporations all over the world all attach great importance to the opportunities of the huge Chinese outbound tourism market. Meanwhile, domestic tourism companies also cherish these market opportunities. They jointly designed various outbound tourism products and strove to influence the tourist source market.
1. Stride ahead via cooperation and exploration
Take the fast growing cruise industry for example, the development of cruise industry was not as well as originally expected. In 2015, the cruise business of domestic travel agencies recorded loss at large, however, the profit index of international cruise companies still surged.
The reason was that the tourist enterprises of China lack the adequate understanding of the market rules of international cruise industry and the demands of domestic outbound tourism market. Therefore, they vied in occupying the first-hand space resources and price setting right, so as to make the tickets of cruise in short supply, thus hoping to raise, the prices in subsequent sales processes and obtain a higher total revenue by optimizing the benefits of different cabinet spaces. However, in fact, the market demands of cruise industry were not as large as they expected and the departure time of cruises was rigidly defined. In order to minimize the loss, travel agencies usually cut the prices of tickets before the departing of the cruise, which made passengers who bought tickets earlier at higher prices feel unsatisfied. These passengers will choose to sit on their cash next time, hence forming a vicious spiral.
In fact, the scope of international cruise industry was very broad¡ªit not only included large luxury cruise ships, but also included various types of harbor anchorages, marine routes, navigation management, insurance & rescue, club management and port city management departments. Only by adhering to the principles of ¡°co-designing, co-constructing and sharing¡±, respecting the roles and positioning of cruise ferry base port, municipal authority, free trade zones, ship distribution travel agencies, shipping management, research institutes and duty free service, clarifying the relationship and roles of all parties in the industrial value chain, can we enable all parties get what they want and achieve a win-win situation. Fortunately, currently the cruise industry was calling on all related parties to formulate rules together and reach consensus during the process of cooperation.
2. Destination marketing: calling for ¡°down to the earth¡± strategies
Although the outbound tourism market of China boasts huge potential, it has its own features as well as challenges and risks. Therefore, destination marketing calls for the understanding of market and its rules, and the formation of strategies in accordance with Chinese culture and Chinese market.
In 2014, I visited a renowned city in eastern America for negotiating projects of tourism cooperation. For facilitating this cooperation, the municipal tourism department purposely placed Chinese documents, Chinese menus and traveling gadgets, and even set up a Chinese hot line for answering our questions, offering considerate service. For promoting tourism in China, this city hired a Japanese company to help them making the marketing scheme and execution program. Under the circumstance of fluctuated Sino-Japanese relations, such an arrangement was beyond my expectation. In their opinion, China and Japan are close neighbors and have similar cultures. The programs of the Japanese company were in line with the demands of municipal tourism department while the programs offered by Chinese companies were too localized and did not suit the requirements of the US market. Therefore, the company council of the US party unanimously recommended the Japanese company to shoulder the marketing mission in Chinese market. I kept tracking the effect of this municipal tourism marketing program, and it turned out that the municipal tourism department was not content with it.
As an international tourism organization, World Tourism Cities Federation is receiving more and more demands from international tourism destinations for conducting training on tourism marketing in China. These destinations are eager to learn Chinese culture and customs, and the practical curriculum that are most desirable include three aspects: first, how Chinese guides serve their Chinese tourists? Second, how Chinese hotels serve Chinese customers? Third, how Chinese scenic spots sell admission tickets and manage visitors? With the aid of new channels of tourism, international tourism cooperation is gradually upgrading from service trade to soul exchange. The communication and integration between tourism companies and destinations helped to establish the solid foundation of people-to-people exchange, and international tourism cooperation is climbing the peak of philosophical fusion.
III. Actively participate in rule-making and seek discourse power in international tourism industry
Form the statistics of the international tourism industry in recent years we can see that China has become a large tourism country, and is gradually becoming a powerful tourism country. Then, can we achieve the right of discourse with the advantage of huge tourist quantity? Can we obtain influence with the advantage of great consuming capacity? According to the research of expert committee of World Tourism Cities Federation, China should strive to obtain rights in three aspects in international tourism industry, as follows:
1. International discourse power. Currently, in international tourism conferences, the acknowledgment of China is usually an indispensable element for the formation of conference resolution. In various academic conferences of international tourism, the development of Chinese tourism industry was usually cited by experts as important case. However, we should not be content with achieving such on-the-surface discourse power.
First, discourse power should be embodied in the right of price setting. The huge quantity of outbound tourists did not bring the corresponding right of price setting to Chinese tourism corporations. For instance, international tourism destinations adopted the means of deferred payment in their business with domestic travel agencies, which was equivalent to earning the money of Chinese tourists with the money of previous Chinese tourists. Therefore, we have to obtain the necessary right of price making.
Second, discourse power should be embodied in the right of guiding the setting of standard. Standard is the provision for repetitive issues. The current world tourism standards were made in Europe more than ten years ago. China should make its own tourism standard recognized by the international community at the fastest pace.
Third, discourse power should be transformed into the right of allocating resources. In 2015, the quantity of outbound tourists of China was 120 million and the year-on-year growth rate remained 20 percent, which means that there will be 200 million outbound tourists annually in several years time. The consumption of such a huge group of people is actually a re-allocation of world resources. However, at present, the right of Chinese tourists in distributing world resources has not been acknowledged. Even in some cases when Chinese entrepreneurs seek to purchase and invest in foreign lands, they were suspected to be of ulterior motives. Such behavior seriously violated the basic market rule of free flow of capital. The legal rights of these Chinese entrepreneurs should be respected and they should be entitled the right of purchasing available resources.
2. The right of market coordination. Currently, our job on outbound tourist protection was still inadequate and when Chinese tourists were confronted with various problems
which need coordination, they can only turn to the embassies of China or the organizing travel agencies. As a globally great power of tourism, we should establish tourism coordination institutions in major destinations and strengthen the right of market coordination, so as to help Chinese tourists resolve various problems they met abroad.
3. The right of organizing and guiding. At present, none of the several international renowned tourism organizations was launched by China. This circumstance does not conform with the international status of China as a great power of tourism. In the tourism industry, China should establish an organization similar to Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, Shanghai Cooperation Organization or Boao Forum for Asia¡ªtaking advantage of the great purchasing power of Chinese tourists to strengthen the capability of China in adjusting the rules of international tourism market. The World Tourism Cities Federation, launched by China, was the world¡¯s first tourism organization whose members were mainly composed of cities. By organizing events, publishing research reports, organizing academic seminars and promoting win-win cooperation, the role of the Federation as a platform for tourism cooperation surged. Meanwhile, by collecting the voice of its members and put it into the international tourism market, and participate deeply in the global governance and rule making, the Federation is gradually gaining discourse power and influence. Encouragingly, the development of the Federation has drew wide acknowledgment from the industry of international tourism, and it was dubbed as the most promising emerging international tourism organization¡ªit is bound to play a more and more important role in the rule making and governance structure optimizing of international tourism industry.
(Yan Han, Council Member of the Chinese Association for International Understanding, Deputy Secretary-general of World Tourism Cities Federation)