The number of travelers to China dropped by 2 million in 2008 in what was supposed to be a banner year for tourism. Instead, it became one dampened by Olympics-related security measures and the global economic crunch.
The overall number of visitors to China dropped to 130 million in 2008, from 132 million in 2007, 2.6% decrease.
It was the first decline in visitor numbers since 2003, when a deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, kept many people away.
The tourism administration’s director, Shao Qiwei, was quoted as saying by the official China Daily newspaper, ‘All major inbound source markets, except for Hong Kong and Russia, slumped last year amid the economic downturn.’
No mention was made of factors affecting travel to China, though industry experts also blamed tightened visa restrictions before the Beijing Olympics and a May earthquake in southwest China that left 90,000 dead or missing.
Li Lei, chief editor of Chinese travel industry Web site Tourismvane.com, said, ‘The high cost of hotel and air tickets may also have had an effect, but taking into consideration the spending power of foreigners compared to Chinese, they wouldn’t just drop their plans because of higher prices.’
According to the Beijing tourism bureau only 389,000 foreign tourists visited Beijing in August, the month of the games, including travelers from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. That was far fewer than the 500,000 guests originally expected.
Source: Associated Press