China’s secondary cities are gaining recognition

MORE international visitors are taking a stronger interest to venture beyond China’s gateway cities of Shanghai and Beijing into its secondary cities, drawn by the unique landscapes and culture as well as growing air links to these inland destinations, according to international buyers who spoke to TTG Asia e-Daily.

Shelley Zhang, general manager of New York-based Compass Holidays, said: “We have experienced at least a 10 per cent increase in business from the US to China this year.

“Americans like the culture in China because it is something different and exotic, and (repeat visitors) want to explore other cities,” she remarked.

Zhang added: “There is increased interest in the secondary cities like Chongqing, Guilin and Chengdu because first-time visitors would have already been to the popular ones like Beijing and Shanghai.”

Likewise, Connie Lin, deputy general manager of Tian Bao Travel in Ontario, Canada, which recorded a 10 per cent year-on-year growth in outbound business to China, said: “We have seen growing interest to cities such as Kunming and Guilin from repeat visitors who have already been to Shanghai and Beijing.

“China is viewed as a beautiful and exciting place; the depreciation of the yuan, and lots of airlines and (increasing) capacity between China and Canada had also helped grow the market,” she added.

The extensive domestic networks of Hainan Airlines and Air China have also helped her company to develop packages beyond Beijing – the point of entry for direct flights from Toronto – to new destinations such as Yunnan, Sichuan, Yangtze River and Xinjiang, Lin pointed out.

Keen to target experienced travellers above the age of 50 and who are now seeking authentic experiences in Asia after having been to the US and Europe, Sahin Kuran, managing partner at Suntrip Tour Turkey, is currently developing tours to Xi’an, Urumqi and Kashgar next year with a minimum of six nights.

He said: “This is a mature market with higher spending power compared with those in their 30s.”

Meanwhile, Taritour’s managing partner, Bahadir Ustundag, noted that the absence of non-stop air routes between China’s second-tier cities and Istanbul is deterring the Turkey-based company from extending tours beyond Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, which are easy sells for his clients due to the availability of direct flights.

Food is also a primary factor that influences Turkish travellers’ destination choice. Said Ustundag: “For the Chinese cities to successfully attract everyone, it will definitely help if there are more halal restaurants around as it will make it easier to sell the (destination).”

Compass Holidays’ Zhang also added that the challenge in promoting secondary cities in China is the lack of English-speaking guides, which may make communication “more challenging”.

Additional reporting by Paige Lee Pei Qi

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