Author: CHUNG Yoon Ngan
Date: 04-29-12 21:30
Tourist attractions come at a high price
By Jiang Xueqing , Li jing
April 30, 2012 - 8:57am http://www.chinadailyapac.com
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Taierzhuang, famous for its historic sites, has attracted millions of tourists. The local government rebuilt the ancient town by restoring these sites in 2009. The admission price has now more than tripled from its opening of 50 yuan two years ago. (Photo by Ji Zhe/China Daily)
Holiday time, and thoughts turn to visiting places of interest and scenic areas to enjoy, at leisure, nature's bounty. But rising admission prices may cast a shadow over such plans. During the Tomb Sweeping holiday in April, the ancient town of Taierzhuang in Zaozhuang, Shandong province, quietly raised holiday ticket prices, for tourists, from 100 yuan ($15.90) to 160 yuan. Taierzhuang is not alone.
From May 8, ticket prices for the Jinggangshan Scenic Area in the southwest of Jiangxi province will go up from 226 yuan per person to 260 yuan.
According to a report in the Beijing News, nearly half of the 130 top-level scenic areas nationally excluding those in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have ticket prices which are now in excess of 100 yuan. About 90 percent of more than 1,000 Internet users said in an online poll that they think a price below 100 yuan is more acceptable.
Tourism experts said the price hike is reasonable, to a certain extent. Commodity and service costs are rising generally. However, government investment in tourist sites is lagging, and this puts the onus on operators to boost income. But the system is not uniform and prices vary.
The public is in the dark.
"In theory, scenic areas are public property, but this is a naive viewpoint," said Zhang Lingyun, vice-dean of the tourism institute of Beijing Union University. "In reality, the local government usually treats these natural resources as cash cows to revitalize the local economy."
Taierzhuang was a provincial business center during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties after the route of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal was changed. It later became a battlefield where the Chinese won a major victory over the Japanese in April 1938 during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
Seeing its tourist potential, the Zaozhuang municipal government launched a project in 2009 to rebuild the ancient town by restoring the docks and renovating its courtyard houses and other historical sites.
The town had a "tourist test run" during the 2010 May Day holiday and received more than 2.4 million visitors by the end of last year.
When the town first opened to tourists the admission price was 50 yuan. This rose later to 70 yuan and more than tripled within two years.
"Zaozhuang used to rely on its rich coal reserves until they fell below 600 million tons in 2006," said Wang Zhan, the publicity officer for the ancient town's administrative committee.
"The city government realized its resources would be exhausted in less than 20 years and turned to tourism."
Billions of yuan were invested and since 2008 nearly 2 billion yuan in tourist cash has arrived.
Wang noted that Zaozhuang had no tour bus and no local tour guides when it decided to become a tourist center but it now has 105 tour buses and 400 local tour guides. Until recently, the city had only 4,700 hotel beds with an occupancy rate lower than 40 percent. During the last three years, the city has seen the arrival of 78 more hotels and 14,000 more hotel beds. Ten five-star hotels have been built or are under construction but they still cannot meet demand.
The tourist industry, directly and indirectly, created 100,000 new jobs for the city. Farmers sold more than 200 million salted duck eggs in 2011, for 400 million yuan, Wang said.
To promote tourism in Zaozhuang, the municipal government formed a special office to generate publicity efforts across the country. The government also set a tourist number target for each department, district and site to bring to the city and made evaluations based on their performances.
Every week, the office generates a report on how many advertisements or promotional stories were placed on TV and newspapers, how many publicity posts were made on which Web forums, and how many brochures were distributed to which companies and organizations.
Among more than 20,000 tourism spots in China, income from ticket sales accounts for 30 percent of the total income of the spots on average, said Zhang of the tourism institute of Beijing Union University. For smaller tourism spots, the percentage is even higher.
"The finance of some local government relies heavily on tourism tickets, and therefore the government gives the nod for prices to rise, ignoring the long-term development of tourism spots," said Zhan Dongmei, an expert with the China Tourism Academy.
"Although scenic areas are owned by the central government, they are actually run by the local government. It is not clear who owns the rights or has overall responsibility for these tourism spots, so nobody is held responsible for increasing costs," she continued.
But rising ticket prices are tolerated by a majority of tourists.
Zhang noted that tickets only account for a small part of traveling expenses and therefore people rarely give up their plans simply because a ticket may cost more.
Even if they have to pay 100 percent more for a ticket that previously cost 100 yuan, the increase is, more often than not, accepted.
Besides, the growing demand for people to travel and have a break, especially on weekends and holidays, also helps push up the price. After Taierzhuang raised its prices it still received more than 22,800 visitors on Saturday, April 21.
Lao Yibo, a tourism-planning consultant based in Guangdong province, said most domestic tourism destinations rely too much on admission tickets as a main channel for income.
"And it seems that the ticket price does not have too much of an impact on the number of tourists as there are more people traveling nowadays. As a result, for managers of these tourism destinations, raising ticket prices is the least risky and easiest way to make money.
"However, this is still a beginner's way of developing tourism," he said.
In contrast, according to Lao, many tourism sites in other countries are ticket-free, or only a small entrance fee is charged.
For instance, in Japan, the entrance fees for tourist sites are kept deliberately low. People do not need to pay to climb Mount Fuji.
And a majority of museums are also free. But people do need to buy expensive tickets at theme parks, such as Disneyland, as well as commercial shows and exhibitions.
In France, the average ticket price at tourism attractions is about 10 euros ($13.2). The government also has discounts to attract tourists. For instance, the admission for adults to the Louvre Museum is 9.5 euros and free of charge the first Sunday of each month. The museum also has a year pass for 15 euros for youths between 18 and 25.
Government subsidies play a role as do souvenir sales.
"I don't buy souvenirs normally but I bought one very expensive piece in Japan. It was of very high quality, so I didn't hesitate to pay for that," said Lao.
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A brief account of 井岡山
A poem of 井岡山 JingGangShan(*1A)
Written By 毛澤東in Autumn 1928.
山下旌旗在望,------Shan xia4 jing qi2 zai4 wang4,
山頭鼓角相聞.------Shan tou2 gu3 jiao4 xiang wen2.
敵軍圍困萬千重,---Di2 jun wei2 kun4 wan4 qian chong2,
我自巋然不動.------Wo3 zi4 kui ran2 bu4 dong4.
早已森嚴壁壘,------Zao3 yi3 sen yan2 bi4 lei3,
更加眾志成城.------Geng jia zhong4 zhi4 cheng2 cheng2.
黃洋界上炮聲隆,---Huangyangjie shang4 bao sheng long2,
報導敵軍宵遁.------Bao4 dao3 di2 jun xiao dun4.
Our banners and flags are visible at the mountain foot,
On the mountain top sound our drums and bungles.
Thousands of enemies are besieging us,
Steadfastly we stand our ground.
We have already strongly fortified our fortress,
The unity of our wills is an impregnable stronghold.
From HuangYangJie(*2B) comes the thunder of guns,
It is reported that the enemies have fled.
The background of the poem.
On September 9, 1927, Mao Zedong led a group of peasants and staged an uprising
called the Autumn Harvest Uprising (秋收暴動) in Hunan province (湖南省).
The insurrection failed miserably. In October 1927, Mao Zedong congregated
the remnants of the uprising of about 800 men and 80 old rifles. They climbed
the JingGangShan (井崗山) with the goal of establishing a revolutionary
base in the mountains (please see the poem "Autumn Harvest Uprising").
(*1A) 井岡山 JingGangShan
JingGangShan is a massive mountain range, lying between the two provinces
of Jiangxi (江西省) and Hunan (湖南省).
At that time, there were only five villages in this region of 900 square
kilometers. All the families were Hakka People (客家人) whose forefathers
had come from the north several hundred years ago.The total population in
JingGangShan was less than 2,000 and they were so poor that only a few of
them had more than a pair of trousers. They made fire by striking stones.
The red earth in JingGangShan was so hard that hardly any crops grew in this
desolated area. The Hakka men were mostly porters and farm hands in the plains
below. Mao Zedong managed to win over two groups of about 600 armed Hakkas
in this area. The Hakkas in JingGangShan helped Mao Zedong to realize his
(*2B) HuangYangJie 黃洋界
HuangYangJie is the name of one of the five passes to JingGangShan. The
other four passes are: BaMianShan (八面山), ShuangMaShi (雙馬石), ZhuShaChong
(朱沙沖) and TongMuLing (桐木嶺).
In late August 1928, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party
(CCP) of Hunan province specially dispatched Du Xiujing (杜修經) to see
Mao Zedong and ordering him to lead the No.28 and No.29 Regiments of the
Red Army to bound for GuiDong (桂東) in southern Huanan province. Knowing
that the main force of the Red Army had left JingGangShan the Kuomintang
(KMT 國民黨) Army attacked JingGangShan. In the morning of August 30th,
1928, four regiments of KMT forces from the provinces of Jiangxi and Hunan
launched an attack on HuangYangJie (黃洋界).
At that time, there were only two companies of the No.31st regiment left
at the base. By the afternoon the ammunition of the Red Army was about to
be exhausted. In desperation, a group of red soldiers carried an old and
rusty bazooka with three shells. The red soldiers fired their bazooka at
the KMT troops. The first shot was an empty shell with sound only. They
fired the second shot and it was also an empty shell producing only sound.
They fired the last shell. The third shot was a real shell and by coincident
the shell landed on the commanding post of the KMT. Then it was all quiet.
The red soldiers did not fire their guns as they were about to run out of
ammunition. They waited and waited from the assault from the KMT. But it
never came because the KMT had withdrawn that evening thinking that the main
force of the Red Army had returned. According to their record only the No.28
Regiment of the Red Army had one or two bazookas.
When he returned to JingGangShan Mao Zedong was so happy that he wrote this
poem to celebrate the victory.
Posted to asiawind.com
By CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (鄭永元)