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Shanghai eyes first stop in inbound travel


Shanghai’s strong attraction as a tourist destination will definitely benefit inbound tourism in China and the Yangtze River Delta region in particular, as it is one of the most vibrant cities in the country, said experts.

Multiple measures are in the cards to build the municipality — a strategic link between domestic and international economies — as a first stop for inbound travelers to the nation, they said.

There is a need to better promote the city’s image among youth on social media platforms across the world and make mobility and payments easier for international travelers, the experts said.

Several countries, including Thailand and Singapore, have implemented mutual visa waiver programs with China over the past months.

Since Dec 1China has also started allowing visitors from GermanyFranceItalythe NetherlandsSpain and Malaysia to enter the country without a visa.

More than 210,000 visits from such countries were recorded within a month, up 28.5 percent compared with the previous month, according to the National Immigration Administration.

Shanghai will strengthen efforts to promote culture and tourism in the new year, including deepening its appeal as a beacon for international brands to launch new products, and taking actions to improve the energy level of business districts, said Gong Zheng, mayor of Shanghai.

Several other key projects are also planned this year to further boost culture and tourism in Shanghai, Gong said while delivering a work report of the Shanghai municipal government at the annual plenary sessions of the city’s legislative and political advisory bodies late last month.

These include accelerating the construction of the Lego park, which is scheduled to open in 2025; expanding the Pujiang cruise route, fully resuming the operation of international cruises; and enriching landmark commercial zones such as Nanjing Road, Lujiazui and Xujiahui, Gong said.

Data from the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism showed that the city received nearly 9 million inbound tourists in 2019, earning $8.38 billion in foreign exchange from tourism, which accounted for about 1.5 percent of the city’s GDP, significantly higher than that of other big cities across the country.

However, earnings from tourism in Thailand and Spain, which have a well-developed tourism industry, accounted for 11.9 percent and 7.1 percent of their GDPs, respectively.

The Shanghai authorities should organize bloggers and vloggers in the fields of culture, tourism, lifestyle and art from major source countries, to experience Shanghai for themselves, and tell the city’s stories from their perspective, according to a business proposal at the sessions.

The proposal suggested that Shanghai should create a more friendly and convenient service environment in terms of its telecommunication network, consumption and payment, hotel choices, and public signs in more diverse languages to better cater to the needs of foreign tourists, especially independent travelers.

It also mentioned that some countries, including JapanThailand, and Russia, had taken various steps to attract tourists from China in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic. These countries had upgraded their mobile online payment systems, added broadcasts in Chinese on public transport, and provided services in Chinese at shopping malls. Such measures worked to draw tourists from the country.

It also suggested that Shanghai and the country’s tourism authorities as well as industry players should have a stronger presence in international summits and exhibitions, including events during the China-France Year of Culture and Tourism, the China International Travel Mart, and the China International Import Expo.

This, it said, would strengthen communication and cooperation with foreign travel agents and cultural tourism enterprises, and further boost their confidence in the prospects of tourism in Shanghai and China.

Local political advisor Shen Feng proposed that more tourism programs with traditional Chinese and Shanghai-style cultural elements should be provided within the Shanghai International Resort Area.

“Currently, Shanghai Disneyland, which received a record 13 million tourists last year, outshone others within the resort area. The authority can mull a diverse variety of cultural experiences for visitors,” said Shen, who is also deputy Party secretary of Shanghai North Bund (Group) Co Ltd.

“More events, including galleries, art and performance centers, and workshops for visitors to experience Shanghai’s city culture with its own characteristics, can also be provided,” Shen said.

“Other foreign brands of theme parks can also be introduced to the resort. Countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative can set up booths to exhibit their own cultures and cuisine, as well as for interactions,” he said.

Wu Beiqi, general manager of the China unit at Hong Kong-based Far East Consortium International Ltd, suggested that the historical and cultural district of the Bund be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site so that it matches Shanghai’s identity as “a grand meeting hall for the world”.

The application process itself could be an opportunity for Shanghai to attract more international attention and investment, and promote Shanghai’s international exchanges and cooperation, she said.

“This will not only enhance Shanghai’s international influence, but also inject new impetus into the city’s, and even the country’s, reform and opening-up,” said Wu.

“Many cities and regions with a UNESCO World Heritage Site tag will attract travelers from home and abroad, increase the rate of inbound tourism, and bring considerable consumption income,” she said.

The move can also further develop relevant enterprises in the cultural tourism, exhibition and creation space, Wu said.

Chen Lingyan, a lawmaker in Shanghai, suggested a continuous upgrade of the business district of West Nanjing Road downtown to better fulfill its role of an exhibition window for brands from all over the world, as this will contribute to stimulating consumption and tourism.

“One focus can be on the small streets surrounding the main commercial street in the area, including Julu Road, Fumin Road and Changle Road. There can be integral planning so that they can better complement and expand the functions of the main business area,” said Chen, who is also manager of a business unit from the Shanghai branch of China Cinda Asset Management, a State-owned financial enterprise.

Another focus area could be to make tax refunds for tourists easier and expand the service to more shops and a greater variety of commodities, she added.

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