Cultural enrichment is the key
Tourism in China is too reliant on ticket revenue. Industry insiders, who have criticized this reliance, believe that tourism's future lies in lowering ticket prices and enriching tourism products. However, unlike national parks and scenic areas in the US and Europe, tickets have a stranglehold, said Zhan Dongmei, an expert with the China Tourism Academy.
Tourism in developed countries puts more emphasis on social benefits. These governments keep lowering prices to promote education and the cultural enrichment of their citizens.
In China, government investment in tourist attractions is limited. As a consequence, ticket revenue has become a major source - often the only source - of income and local governments depend on it, Zhan said.
Administration is also different. While other countries usually have a designated institute to run scenic areas, like the National Park Service in the US, tourism spots in China are jointly managed by a number of government departments such as the National Tourism Administration, the State Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Land and Resources and the local bureau of parks and woods.
Without independent third-party oversight, a strategic plan is difficult to formulate.
In China, local governments change ticket prices mainly by holding public hearings to ensure the decision is made legally and democratically. Developed countries, in contrast, have a strict system for increasing prices. Each site or park has to present sufficient evidence to prove the necessity of raising prices when making an application.
Experts suggest that the central government should introduce policies to guide the tourism industry and regulate ticket prices to ensure sustainable development. Operators of the scenic areas should also develop comprehensive products, such as enhanced viewing or travel experiences and valuable souvenirs, Zhan said. This will provide another revenue stream apart from tickets.