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Public should enjoy more 'tourism benefits'

(People's Daily Online)

08:40, September 27, 2012

(file photo)

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism will introduce three measures in the National Day "golden week" holiday to serve the public, including handing out 100,000 free tickets to scenic spots in the city, launching a tourism information monitoring and commanding platform to ease traffic congestion, and adding 2,500 parking lots in the Badaling Great Wall Scenic Area.

In recent years, tourist attractions have often come under fire for frequent ticket price rises. Nearly half of the 130 5A-class scenic areas in China charge admission fees of more than 100 yuan, and some even charge more than 280 yuan for entry. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) requires domestic tourist attractions to adjust ticket prices once every three years at most, and this year marks the second window after three years for price adjustments.

According to media reports, certain tourist attractions have already increased their ticket prices between 20 percent and 60 percent, leading to an overall rise in tourism expenses. Some netizens said that high-ticket prices "make scenery unaffordable," and have proved an obstacle to the prosperity of the seemingly booming domestic tourism market.

Inflation has undoubtedly played a role in driving up the ticket prices of tourist attractions, but local governments' desire for more revenue and lack of fair and scientific management must have played a bigger role. Instead of increasing ticket prices like most local governments did, the Beijing municipal government has strengthened efforts to improve tourism services, and plans to hand out 100,000 free tickets to tourist attractions in the city, which is quite laudable.

Fundamentally speaking, tourist attractions are public resources that are owned and used by all citizens. They are the common wealth of mankind, and the purpose of charging admission fees should only be maintaining normal operations of tourist attractions. The real value of scenic spots lies in being popular leisure and vacation places, rather than the profit-making tools of a few interest groups and individuals. The increase in ticket prices seems to be a normal market behavior, but is in fact annexation of the public's "tourism benefits."

Local governments can achieve several things at one stroke by letting the pubic enjoy more "tourism benefits." The West Lake Scenic Area in Hangzhou has been open to the public free of charge since 2003. Although Hangzhou "lost" some revenue from ticket sales, the city "gained" an optimization of its tourism industry structure and an overall improvement in its modern services. Statistics showed that Hangzhou's total tourism revenue reached 119.1 billion yuan last year, up over 305 percent from 2002, and the city's domestic tourism revenue rose nearly 318 percent to 106.4 billion yuan. The city's tourism revenue has been growing faster than its gross domestic product (GDP).

Although it is unrealistic to ask all other places to copy the West Lake's "free admission" model, they can definitely learn something from Hangzhou's top-level design and management philosophy in the process of promoting free admissions to tourist attractions.

As a popular tourist destination, Beijing is generous enough to hand out 100,000 free tickets to its scenic spots during the "golden week" holiday. This shows that the balancing of the interests of various parties more often than not faces few technical barriers, but truly requires innovation in ideas and systems as well as effective implementation of people-oriented measures.

Read the Chinese version: 让公众享受更多“旅游福利”

Source:People's Daily Overseas Edition , author: Xu Juan.

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