Russians warm up to China again as holiday spot
AFTER four years of decline, there was a huge increase in the number of Russian tourists visiting China in January, new figures show.
In total, 144,200 Russians visited in the first month of the year - up 46.9 per cent on the same period last year, according to a recent report released by the China Tourism Academy, a think-tank under the China National Tourism Administration.
Russia is the fifth-largest source market for China's tourism industry after the United States, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea. Malaysia and Singapore are ranked No. 8 and No. 9 respectively.
Over the past few years, a weak ruble has dampened Russians' enthusiasm for travel abroad.
Last year, the number of Russian tourists in China was down 22.7 per cent year-on-year, said the report
Xu Xiaolei, a spokesman for China Youth Travel Service, said the growth in Russian tourists this winter was not surprising but it was still too early to predict a trend for the rest of the year.
"Many Russian tourists chose to spend the bitter winter in warm Hainan province. And to avoid the peak season of Chinese New Year, many booked their trips to China in January," he noted.
"Tourism watchdogs have also been tightening the regulation of Hainan's tourism products. Compared with the sky-high hotel prices last year, prices in Hainan are relatively low this year.
"This has also helped to attract more Russian tourists."
He expects the overall inbound tourism industry to maintain its pace of growth this year, after the number of inbound visits in January increased by 1.7 per cent year-on-year to 11.1 million, according to the China Tourism Academy report
The China National Tourism Administration expects more than 137 million overseas tourists to visit China this year, an increase of 2.5 per cent on the previous year.
According to its development goal for the year, as set at the annual work meeting on Jan 29, international tourism revenue is also forecast to increase by 6.5 per cent, reaching US$121 billion (S$170 billion).
If this happens, it will be the second consecutive year of growth for China's inbound tourism market following a period of decline from 2011 to 2014.
Li Shihong, deputy head of the administration, said second- and third-tier cities as well as small towns would play a leading role in attracting overseas tourists - highlighting Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, Yueyang, Hunan province and Tongli, Jiangsu province as examples.
"Besides, the high-speed railway network has connected small towns and made them more accessible than ever before. It is a great time for them to develop their inbound tourism industry."
CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK