An All-Out Effort
Drake, Steve, The China Business Review
Until recently, promotion of China's tourist sites was almost non-existent in the United States. Chinese travel companies would participate in a few national and international travel shows, while Beijing maintained two poorly funded and understaffed tourist offices in New York and Los Angeles. US tour operators specializing in travel to Asia, in fad, did more to promote China than did the Chinese government itself. In the past year, however, with travel industry competition heating up inside and outside of the PKC, China has signaled it is serious about attracting new waves of US vacationers and business travelers.
BE CHINA.., AND THEY'LL COME
The complacency of China's tourism industry in the 1980s was hardly surprising, since the allure of a society and sites previously off-limits was more than enough to attract thousands of foreign tourists. Business travelers needed no prodding either, as reign companies eager to investigate opportunities in the world's most populous nation found ample reason to make exploration visits to China. The country's main tourist authorities-the National Tourism Administration (NTA), which oversees development of the industry, and the China International Travel Service (CITS), the largest tour organizer for reign visitors-figured they needed to do little, if anything, to promote China as a destination for leisure and business travelers.
And they were right. From the time China's doors opened to the outside world in 1979 until the Tiananmen incident in mid-1989, tourism officials gleefully counted the hard currency earned as thousands of foreign visitors, including record numbers of Americans, flocked to the traditional tourist cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Guilin, GuangZhou, and other destinations (see p 46).
While China used its tourism earnings to build hotels and airports, buy new aircraft, and open new tourist sites around the country, other Asian locales-Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore, to name a few-spent millions of dollars on slick promotional programs, advertising campaigns, and government-sponsored trips to familiarize travel agents with the facilities and sites in each location. Chinese tourism marketing efforts, in contrast, consisted largely of cultivating the dozen or so large tour operators that generated the bulk of US tour group travel to the PRC. These companies still constitute a loyal sales force, marketing mostly organized and incentive tours to retail travel agencies, alumni organizations, student and study groups, and corporate clients.
Chinas promotional strategy began to change following the events of June 1989. World-wide shock at the events on Tiananmen Square and international condemnation of the government-sanctioned violence led to a dramatic fall in the number of tourists to China in the period immediately following the unrest. Hotels which had occupancy rates nearing 100 percent just months earlier were forced to cut rates severely to attract the few visitors that came. Many US tour operators, similarly hard hit, slashed prices or even eliminated China from their itineraries (see The CBR, September-October 1989,p.42).
Shaken out of their complacency, NTA, CITS, and other tourism organizations began to look for ways to speed the industry's recovery. Early efforts focused on cutting prices and improving the products China had to offer. For instance, CITS and NTA implemented major campaigns to improve service levels throughout the industry, setting up tourist complaint hotlines and honoring employees with good service records. At the same time, major Chinese tour companies became more flexible about the packages they would put together, offering more varied group itineraries and foreign independent traveler (FIT) products.
Perhaps more significantly, China's tourism officials worked hard at increasing their marketing savvy. The recent introduction and promotion of …
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Publication information: Article title: An All-Out Effort. Contributors: Drake, Steve - Author. Magazine title: The China Business Review. Volume: 20. Issue: 5 Publication date: September/October 1993. Page number: 55+. © U.S.-China Business Council Mar/Apr 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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