Accidents hurting Yichun tourism

08:42, August 27, 2010      

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Tuesday night's plane crash that killed 42 people in Yichun in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province gives an additional blow to local tourism that is already suffering from an earlier explosion.

Just a week ago on Aug 16, Yichun also made media headlines for a fireworks factory explosion that killed at least 20 and injured 153. Investigators said the plant was operating illegally as its production license was suspended in June pending a safety overhaul.

Two disasters in eight days are too much for the local tourism industry, said Lian Zhengying, general manager of Yichun Happy Holiday Travel Service.

"After the explosion, the number of tourism groups to Yichun dived, and we only received a small number of individual tourists," she said.

Now with the air crash, the situation has gotten worse, she said.

Lian said the leader of a tour group that was set to visit Yichun soon called to cancel the trip. Even phone calls for information have stopped ringing.

A staffer with Yichun branch of China International Travel Service, who only revealed her surname as Fu, said over the phone that at least 30 percent of their customers who had planned to visit Yichun by air in the near future have canceled their trips, while the rest changed their transportation means to train or bus.

This should not be the case at this time of the year, industry workers said. Located in the northernmost province of China, Yichun is regarded as an ideal place to get away from the hot summer for people from other parts of the country.

Each summer, many tourists flock to the city for leisure or conferences, Lian said.

This year, before the accident, the city's tourism had especially benefited from the newly opened airport.

Opened last August, the Yichun Airport helps cut the travel time between Yichun and the provincial capital of Harbin from about seven hours by bus to only 40 minutes by air.

Though initially some local residents had reservations about the airport project as they considered it unnecessary, the city government pushed the airport project ahead, with the ambition to attract more tourists and reduce its reliance on its finite forest resources.

As expected, the airport has brought more tourists from outside of Heilongjiang.

Reports showed that in 2009, the city received 3.82 million tourists and earned 1.9 billion yuan ($279 million) in tourism revenue, up 13.5 percent and 26.7 percent respectively year-on-year.

Since June this year, Lian's firm received at least one tour group every day, she said.

"On the busiest days, I had to get up at 4 am and go home at 8 pm. You could not even find an empty bed in hotels then," she said.

But now the crash and the earlier explosion have dampened the local tourism industry's hopes.

Lian expected their revenue to drop by at least half and hoped that no more accidents would happen.

Yichun's economy largely relies on the forestry industry and an iron and steel group. As one of the least developed cities in Heilongjiang province, the average annual income for urban families in Yichun is 10,000 yuan.

Xinhua and Tan Zongyang contributed to this story.

Source: China Daily


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