All over the world lip service is paid by tourism leaders for a move from quantity to quality in tourism and hospitality.
However, in the attempt to reach as fast as possible the 2019 arrival numbers again, the reality often looks very different. Thailand, for example, allowed the return of zero-dollar tours from China in order to boast its first million arrivals in less than five months after China reopened the borders.
For many destinations, the post-pandemic restart of China’s outbound tourism is presenting a choice between a Highway to hell and a Highway to heaven, as recently discussed during the Himalayan Travel Mart Conference in Kathmandu.
Before the pandemic, Nepal saw an influx of small-scale Chinese investors, taking over many of the hotels, shops and restaurants in the former hippie areas of Thamel in Kathmandu and Lakeside in Pokhara. In 2019, 170,000 arrivals from China were reported, after reaching 120,000 arrivals already in 2014.
The post-pandemic shift of China’s outbound tourism demand is certainly in Nepal's favour: outdoor activities, authentic experiences, value for money, friendly host communities, a mixture of exotic and familiar, new destinations to discover – all such requests can be easily fulfilled in Nepal. Visa are issued on arrival free of charge for Chinese and a brand new airport in Pokhara offers the possibility of additional air routes between China and Nepal.
As for many other destinations, two developments are possible:
Either a concentration on quantitative growth, resulting in many visitors, but a strong competition on price and very low margins and with little interest in local culture, among other aspects discussed in more detail in COTMI. The alternative is indeed to focus on qualitative growth, special interests and the application of the tools of the Meaningful Tourism paradigm. This involves a rather slow growth in visitor numbers, but unique offers commanding higher prices and good margins, and among other effects, more control and management jobs for locals.
At the opening of the Himalayan Travel Mart, the Prime Minister, who attended in person, emphasised in his welcome speech that tourism is the top priority for his government. Nepal can become the benchmark of Chinese Meaningful Tourism for countries around the world.
As always, best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS and the entire COTRI Weekly team to all our readers!
COTRI WEEKLY is published every Thursday by COTRI China Outbound Tourism Research Institute, the world's leading independent research institute for information, training, research, and consulting relating to the Chinese outbound tourism market.
It includes a weekly reflection of developments in the market and information about activities of COTRI and some content of COTRI Intelligence.
COTRI Weekly is free of charge and it provides every week links to carefully selected online news items.