Legislative, Administrative, and Technological Approaches in Strengthening Tourism Flows Management in China’s Scenic Spots
Scenic spots overflow and difficulties in flows management incurred are shared challenges in the global tourism industry. China suffers overflow in scenic spots around the country. It becomes much the case for popular scenic spots during special events or peak tourism time. China has a base population of nearly 1.4 billion. The number of domestic trips in the country exceeds 5 billion trips. In terms of international visitor arrivals in China, around 140million visitors were counted. With such a huge base population and the mass market, China boasts a larger base of tourists than any other countries, which increases the overall difficulty in scenic spots governance. In the Labor Day holiday this year, China saw 147 million domestic visitors and the domestic tourism revenue of 87.16 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 9.3% and 10.2% respectively. Some popular attractions went through serious overflow during the holiday. The Summer Palace received 374,000 tourists and Mount Tai 183,000 tourists. China’s tourism remains at the beginning stage of mass tourism where most visitors travel by sightseeing. It’s hard to say NO to visitors who came from all over the country to see the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and other popular attractions. Such a status quo along with problems like inappropriate tourism behaviors, forced sale, the lack of integrity, and price fraud make it even harder to govern scenic spots in the country. We should study and learn from our counterparts in how they practice international rules and standards in tourism governance. It is also essential that we follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and adopt the people-centered mindset to come up with legislative, administrative, and technological approaches in comprehensive tourism governance.
We should first resort to the legislative approach to govern tourism flows in scenic spots. China issued its first Tourism Law in 2013. There in Article 45, it reads “The number of tourists received by a scenic spot may not exceed the maximum carrying capacity determined by the competent department of the scenic spot. The scenic spot shall publish the maximum carrying capacity determined by the competent department of scenic spots, develop and implement the tourism flows control plans, and may take such means as ticket reservation to control the number of tourists received by the scenic spot. When the number of tourist is likely to reach the maximum carrying capacity, the scenic spot shall make an announcement in advance and report to local government at the same time, and the scenic spot and local people’s government shall take measures divert the flows of tourists in a timely manner.” This piece of article serves as the most significant legal base when we deal with tourist overflow and flows control.
In addition to the Tourism Law, there are also some administrative regulations promulgated and implemented by the State Council such as the Regulations on Scenic Sites, the Regulations on the Administration of Travel Agencies and the Regulations on the Management of Tour Guides, which cover reception capacity of scenic spots, tourism safety and tourism service quality respectively. Civil law and criminal law also list out corresponding legal provisions for safety management in public places and areas where people gather, especially in dealing with stampede and collapse caused by mass gathering.
Tourism flows management should also make full use of China’s advantage that the Communist Party of China leads the government and that they coordinate in administration. Tourism scenic spots in China are not simply under government administration. It is included in a comprehensive national system where the party takes the lead and where people are put at the center. The Party takes the lead in the development of each province and sectors including the party, government, army, the people, and education. Development of the industry and flows governance also rely on such leadership under the guidance of the Party. It could be seen in the development plans of provinces, in the promulgation of laws and regulations and comprehensive execution of them in issues related to tourism and scenic spots, which may include strengthening execution in specific time. Only by relying on administration and guidance of the Party could we effectively tackle problems including scenic spots capacity control, visitors management in peak seasons, vendor and business governance in scenic spots, and development as well as resource sharing in communities. In April this year, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is formally established, which represents that the country has stepped up its coordination efforts in administration and law enforcement related to tourism development. In addition, some provinces has built up law enforcement teams, tourism police, tourism circuit courts, and industrial and commercial branches related to tourism. All these indicate that professional management teams for tourism scenic spots have basically taken shape.
Law enforcement is indeed required for scenic spots governance. Besides, it also depends on some special administrative approaches in specific development stages. The blacklisted visitor system and tourism volunteers are innovative ways that we introduced. In 2016, the National Tourism Administration issued the Interim Measures on the Management of Records of Uncivilized Behavior of Tourism and blacklisted tourists with uncivilized behavior, thereby restraining their behavior. Such an approach shows China’s exploration of tackling problems in the current stage of tourism development through administrative ways. The tourism volunteer system started in 2015 and volunteers are expected to provide better service to and supervision over visitors. There are more than 50,000 tourism volunteers nationwide registered on the tourism volunteer platform. Simulations of the registered volunteer numbers in the next three years may exceed 1 million. There are more than 6,000 tourism volunteers solely in Shenzhen. Tourism volunteers are becoming important guarantee during holidays, festivals, tourism activities and major tourism activities around the country.
There’s another reason why China's governance of tourism development requires powerful administrative means. For scenic spots that are developed on the basis of natural resources, historical and cultural resources, and agriculture, forestry, and water resources that are nationally owned, there is in fact a division of power between different departments or provincial governments. That is why the Party leadership is needed to balance interest and coordinate power division. In this year's government work report, Prime Minister Li Keqiang proposed to reduce ticket price in state-owned key scenic spots. This is a major administrative measure to protect the rights of citizens to travel and to display public attributes of the scenic spots. On the one hand, we must resolutely implement decisions of the central government. On the other hand, we must also be alert to respond to possible increase in tourism flows and declining service quality. In the long run, it is necessary to strengthen the flows management of existing scenic spots and also to continuously increase the supply so as to provide more high-quality supply to the tourism market. China has already established a national park system and has launched 10 pilot projects. The national cultural park policy is also under research and study. Besides, development of new tourism supplies such as national tourist resorts, historical and cultural blocks, and specialty towns can also effectively alleviate pressure brought by tourist overflow. Either by optimizing the inventory or incremental construction, if we work on flows control without the party’s leadership and coordination of the police, security forces, urban management, culture and tourism departments, many targets could not get achieved. It is determined by China’s national conditions in the era of mass tourism. It is also a powerful exploration of the tourism administrative governance system with Chinese characteristics.
Governance of tourism flows management also requires technological support. Technology is an effective way to improve the efficiency. It is applied in two ways. First, it helps standardize the behaviors of enterprises and tourists in scenic spots; Second, to achieve macro-control and micro-management of tourism flows in scenic spots, modern technologies such as the Internet, cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of things play a huge role. In 2015, the National Tourism Administration issued the Guidelines for the Verification of the Maximum Capacity of Scenic Spots. In 2017, China issued the General Standards for the Management of Scenic Spots and the Rules for Reaction during Peak Hours. National and local tourism administrations and related organizations work hard to build the base for tourism profile and build smart tourism management systems. These efforts cover overflow control and smart management of flows, ticket reservation system, passenger flows forecasting and guidance system, real-time flows monitoring and control system, etc. They have achieved good results through practices.
In exploring ways to optimize the flows management system, China is ready to learn from successful experiences of other countries and regions, and is willing to share our ideas and practices. We will continue to explore the road to the governance of scenic spots management in China under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, with laws and regulations as the basis for governance, with the administrative system as the back for governance, and with science and technology and standards as tools of governance.