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China's 400k+ New Hotels, and the ¥1,680 Breakfast Debacle

A selection of weekly updates from China's travel industry.

100k new travel agencies in 2023

In 2023, the number of newly registered travel agencies reached almost 100,000. Taking the top spot for growth in the tourism sector is hotels, with over 400,000 new registrations in 2023. Other categories, such as camping and scenic area operators, also saw registrations exceeding 20,000. Homestays remain popular, attracting around 6,000 new registrations.

Harbin's tourism boom: the good, the bad and the overpriced

Harbin, the icy capital of China's northernmost Heilongjiang Province, received 135 million tourists in 2023, generating over 169.2 billion yuan (US$23.7 billion) in total tourism revenue. According to the Harbin Municipal Bureau of Culture, Radio, Television, and Tourism, this represents a year-on-year volume increase of 145.78%, and a 41.4% increase compared to 2019. In terms of total tourism revenue, this represents a year-on-year increase of 239.03%, and a 7.4% increase compared to 2019. However, a travel agency in Harbin faced controversy as a video circulated showing a meager breakfast of mantou (a plain bun) and xifan (thin rice gruel) - for a travel experience priced at 1,680 yuan (US$237). The local tourism bureau announced on January 23 that the agency and the unhappy customer had reached a settlement, and an investigation was launched into other alleged violations by the travel agency in question.

Harbin draws scores every winter with its city-scale ice sculptures


China and Singapore now visa-free

China and Singapore have mutually exempted visa requirements, starting February 9th. On January 25th, representatives from the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Singapore signed an agreement on visa exemptions for ordinary passport holders. When the agreement takes effect, it will allow passport holders to enter China or Singapore for purposes including tourism, family visits and business for up to 30 days without a visa.

Maotai mixes baijiu with tourism

Chinese leading baijiu liquor brand Maotai looks to headhunt high-ranking culture and tourism officials, as the company expands into the liquor tourism industry. Previously, Maotai Group had identified liquor tourism as one of its three main business lines, alongside its liquor business and financial services. Primary responsibilities of these new hires will include strategic planning and development of Maotai's new liquor tourism offerings.

Maotai has been pushing expansion into different markets through collaborations, such as with Luckin Coffee

Hainan and Macau launch new partnership 

China's southernmost province of Hainan and Macau held a promotional event on January 25th for the "One Journey, Multiple Stops" tourism model, so as to enhance cultural and tourism cooperation between Hainan and Macau. On the back of strong tourism-driven growth in 2023, Hainan's southern city of Sanya recently introduced two policy measures to promote tourism standardization and quality. These measures are set to include one-time cash rewards for hotels, scenic spots, rural homestays, seafood stalls, and wedding photography institutions that meet certain standards, ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 yuan (US$2,815 - 28,150).

China's first dedicated pet service section opens at Baiyun Airport's Terminal 2

China Southern Airlines made history recently, introducing the country's first pet travel service section at Baiyun International Airport. As of January 22, the first dedicated pet service section in an airport became open for public use at Baiyun's Terminal 2, as the country's demand for pet travel grows.

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