'Adept tourism staff needed' for Games

QINGDAO, Shandong: China should better train its tourism industry professionals to make the experience of millions of travelers during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games a memorable one.

That's the majority opinion of nearly 300 government officials and experts from home and abroad who have gathered for a two-day forum in Qingdao, the coastal city of East China's Shandong Province.

Co-sponsored by the China National Tourism Administration and the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the forum aims to exchange knowledge and learn from other countries' experiences, such as Japan, Republic of Korea, the United States, Australia, Greece and Spain.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Chairman Brian Deeson said China's focus should be "less on stimulating travel demand and more on managing the flow (of travelers) and ensuring that satisfaction levels are maintained at an appropriately high level".

"Since the choice available to the consumer continues to expand, service quality and delivery will be the key differentiators between products and destinations."

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games has acted as a stimulus for China's "tourism hardware", with a massive investment in related infrastructure.

PATA estimates the cumulative public and private investment into China's tourism industry will reach $170 billion this year.

"But we also need to focus on the software - the people - which plays such a critical role in delivering the Olympic experience," he said.

Language is still a top issue. Staff, especially in the hospitality sector, should be trained not only in English, but also in other foreign languages, he suggested.

Tu Mingde, assistant to the president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), agreed with Deeson, saying China is indeed facing a problem because the massive influx of people would pose a challenge to the tourism industry, especially in providing high quality services.

"The challenge includes the impact on the current industrial structure of tourism in China, as well as the service quality of our tourism enterprises," he said.

The Beijing Olympics is being widely seen as an unprecedented opportunity for China's tourism industry.

The BOCOG has estimated that several million people from home and abroad will visit Beijing to watch the Games and visit tourist attractions.

They will include 16,000 athletes and officials, nearly 5,000 members of the Olympic family, 7,000 Olympic sponsors and their customers and 21,600 registered journalists.

The experience of previous Olympic hosts shows such travelers also visit tourist attractions in and around the cities, and even in far off places.

Six cities that will stage part of the Games, also, stand to gain from the event. Hong Kong, Shanghai, Qingdao, Tianjin, Shenyang and Qinhuangdao are expected to expand their influence worldwide and attract more tourists, he said.

Source: China Daily

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