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Leisure industry booms as wages rise
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Mushrooming foot massage centers tell us that leisure and health services have become more important in our daily lives. A dearth of industrial standards, however, is hindering the development of China's leisure and health sector, experts say.


According to a report last month published by the Health and Recreation Specialty Council of China Health Care Association, there are over 600,000 leisure and health enterprises and about 3 million companies producing related products.


A key sector


With annual revenues exceeding 200 billion yuan ($26.5 billion), the leisure and health sector has become a pillar of the service industry.


The health and recreation sector aims to satisfy the public's health and recreational needs. It includes tourism, sports, culture, catering, recreation and bath and massage businesses.


"We see huge market potential in the business," President of the Health and Recreation Special Council Liu Ling said. "If 20 percent of the population participated in leisure and health activities, with an average annual consumption of 2,000 yuan each, the industry would be a huge market of 600 billion yuan a year.


"And the scale will increase as the economy develops and people's livelihoods improve," Liu said.


There are problems, however. For example, companies are not building their brands sufficiently. Their products are not being identified as special, and the majority of employees have no professional skills, the report said.


Also, as the leisure and health industry evolves, management lacks coordination. Enterprises are mainly small and inefficient, and market competition is chaotic.


Zhang Junkuo, director of the Department of Development Strategy and Regional Economy under the State Council's Development Research Center, said the lack of service standards and a poor industry image were further limiting the sector's development.


"It is a pressing issue for the industrial association to assist related government departments and set industrial standards, enhance social management, and regulate the market," he said.


(China Daily October 10, 2007)


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