Why foreign tourists are reluctant to vacation in China.
Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:
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The number of tourists visiting China is a fraction of the level before the coronavirus pandemic – despite the country fully opening to foreign visitors in March. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA on why vacationers are reluctant to return.
In a recent broadcast, Chinese state television said the country was witnessing a domestic tourism boom.
But there are few foreigners among the Chinese vacationers. In Shanghai, official figures show foreign visitor numbers are just a quarter of their pre-pandemic level in 2019.
China’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy closed the country to foreign tourists until March this year.
London-based Wendy Wu Tours is a leading operator for Asian tours. Its founder says customer demand for trips to China is 35 to 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
“People are thinking, 'How about the pandemic? During that time (there was) the very strict lockdown. Would I be locked down?' And of course not. But people are worried about that. Sometimes because of political reasons - the governments felt not very friendly, among China and the West relations – and that has certainly impacted the customers’ decision to go or not.”
But Wu insists foreign tourists will get a warm welcome in China.
“Now, because there’s so few, so they are asked to take a photo wherever they go and treated like a celebrity, like 30 years ago, and it is incredible.”
China was a major destination for Japanese tourists and business travelers before the pandemic. But demand from the island nation has also failed to return, says Yoko Hayano of JTB Tourism Research and Consulting.
“Since the coronavirus pandemic, all air routes have not yet been restored. The number of airline seats available [to China] is still only about 30% compared with 2019, so there is a big impact.”
Meanwhile, Japan is experiencing a boom in foreign tourism.
China is trying to revive inbound tourism. Beijing and Washington have agreed to double the number of direct passenger flights to 24 per week from late October.
Henry Ridgwell, VOA News, London.
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Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly. I’m Chris Casquejo.
Finally, check out something called Giraffepod in Tokyo. It's a sleeping pod the size of a phone booth. The pod has just enough space for one person and features cushions for the knees and behind, as well as a fold-down headrest, allowing the person to sleep while standing, just like a giraffe.