Dr Du Jiang had been a professor and university president before he was appointed Director-General of the Beijing Tourism Administration (BTA) in April this year. During a recent interview with Beijing This Month magazine, he spoke about how the city's tourism industry is preparing for the Olympic Games.
How important is the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing's tourism industry?
Our studies indicate that the tourism industry will benefit more than any other sector from the Olympic Games.
Nine million tickets will be issued for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; 7 million will be available for sale. According to international practice, 20-25 per cent of the 7 million tickets will be sold to overseas spectators via their local National Olympic Committees (NOCs) or their agents. It is estimated that overseas spectators will buy four to five tickets per person and domestic spectators' two.
Also, 500,000-550,000 people from overseas are expected to visit Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games.
What kinds of accommodations can visitors expect during the Games?
When bidding for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing promised to provide 800 star-rated hotels with about 130,000 beds during the Games. The city now has 4,761 hotels, inns or hostels for visitors, 658 of which are star-rated hotels. Another 80 star-rated hotels are being built or renovated. Though the total number of hotels is slightly under 800 right now, the number of beds in these hotels will meet the target. More existing accommodation units will bid for star-rated-hotel authentication before 2008.
Of the 658 star-rated hotels, 112 have signed contracts with BOCOG to ensure excellent services are provided for overseas spectators and the media. Of special note, only 70 to 80 per cent of these hotel rooms are booked for the Games. The remainder will be for regular tourists and business people. During the Games, the general hotel rates will be lower than at the 2004 Athens Games.
If more rooms are needed in 2008 we will use hotels in Hebei Province and Tianjin that are within 100 kilometres of Beijing. We have already discussed this with the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) and related government agencies in Hebei and Tianjin.
Does Beijing's tourism industry face other challenges in the coming two years? How do you plan to solve them?
First, I fear we do not have enough tour guides who can speak the languages used by some of the smaller segments of our visitor population. We're thinking of soliciting the assistance of local university students and retirees who can speak foreign languages. CNTA is also willing to help find tour guides from other cities. But we're worried that they may be unfamiliar with Beijing. Therefore, training before the Games is essential.
Second, there is some disorder in Beijing's tourism market, such as the existence of non-licensed one-day trip providers and tour guides. We are experimenting with a new classification system to group Beijing's travel agencies under AAAAA, AAAA and AAA ratings, to standardize and improve their services. Visitors will be able to easily distinguish these travel agencies from star-rated hotels and restaurants.
Spectators from both home and abroad are likely to visit the city's scenic spots. What will you do to impress these visitors as well as protect scenic sites and the environment?
Managing scenic spots in Beijing is another important task for us. Currently, we are focusing on improving bilingual signs as well as facilities for the disabled. Every year, we make corrections or add bilingual signs in 20-30 scenic spots. Beginning this year, CNTA began to establish AAAAA standards for scenic spots, the highest-level standard so far. Scenic spots that maintain their AAAA title for two years are able to apply for AAAAA certification. We are also using financial and personnel resources to improve the surroundings of scenic spots.
Visitors to Beijing are increasing by the year. However, this constitutes a threat to the city's sustainable development. We plan to solve this problem by developing high-end tourist markets.
We are now discussing cruise tours with Tianjin. Plans call for foreign visitors arriving in Tianjin by cruises to visit both Tianjin and Beijing. Similar discussions took place earlier this year between China, Japan and South Korea.
But it is crucial that Chinese tourists take the lead in rational consumption. Because they often believe price is the decisive element in consumption, including tourist consumption, they are sometimes easily cheated. We will try to use mobile phone messages to offer domestic tourists tips that will help them avoid being duped before their tours even begin.
Have you acted on any novel ideas since you got your current position?
I plan to establish a Beijing Tourism Satellite Account before 2008. Systematic and detailed statistics can clearly demonstrate how tourism contributes to the city's development, and they can be used to compare Beijing's performance with that of other cities. This will help me to formulate a general idea for improving Beijing's travel and tourism industry.
Source: China Daily