Chinese tourism spending helps offset trade war effects: experts

Chinese people’s ever-growing appetite for travel could help offset the downward pressure brought by the China-US trade war, experts said on Monday.

During the weeklong holidays to celebrate the National Day, domestic tourism generated 599.08 billion yuan ($87.18 billion) in revenue, up 9.04 percent year-on-year, according to media reports on Monday.

Retail and food services spending in China amounted to 1.4 trillion yuan during the holidays, up 9.5 percent year-on-year, data from the Ministry of Commerce showed on Sunday.

Experts said the National Day spending binge, especially on services such as travel, provides support for dealing with difficult external factors such as the China-US trade war.

Zhou Xiaochuan, former governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBC), China’s central bank, has said that the trade war could cut growth in the Chinese economy, but probably by less than 0.5 percent.

Based on China’s 2017 GDP data, 0.5 percent would amount to 413.56 billion yuan. That means the 9.04 percent increase in tourism revenue during this year’s National Day holidays, or 49.67 billion yuan, could offset some of the effects caused by the trade war, according to Global Times calculations.

Li Jun, a services trade expert with the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said the strong services sector consumption during the National Day holidays is a further demonstration of China’s resilience to external factors.

“China’s super-size market means it has more room for adjustments to cope with external effects. And the holiday spending binge is further proof that China should get through dangerous waters by focusing on raising domestic demand and improving consumption,” Li told the Global Times on Monday.

Spillover effect

Domestic tourism also boosts the Chinese economy in many sectors beyond retail and catering.

According to State-owned railway operator China Railway Corp, 130 million passenger trips were made during the period from September 28 to Sunday, up 10.8 percent from the comparable period last year.

And a total of 44 high-speed railway lines broke their single-day record for the number of passengers handled.

Yang Yong, dean with the School of Tourism at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Monday that tourism can boost the real economy, especially as more Chinese people devote time and resources to travel.

Increasing investment in tourist attractions is also important, Yang said.

“One feature of this holiday is the fact that many sites chose to lower their ticket admission fees, which shows tourism asset owners are beginning to realize the huge spillover effect tourism has on the local economy,” Yang said.

The Economic Information newspaper reported on Monday that more government policies to boost consumption will be implemented during the fourth quarter this year.

Experts said that the benefits from this will provide further support for handling the trade war.

For instance, due to the domestic lack of high-end services in medical care, education and travel, Chinese people often spend their money on such services overseas and foreign economies get the spillover benefits, experts noted.

“The government is planning to channel some of this spending back home by deepening China’s opening-up and attracting high-end service providers to set up shop in China. This way, the domestic economy can get the spillover benefits,” Li said.

Overseas travel is still gaining in popularity. During the holidays, Chinese tourists visited nearly 100 foreign countries and regions, according to a statement sent to the Global Times by online travel agency Ctrip.

Tourists spend an average of 8,000-9,000 yuan per capita on such trips and Thailand and Japan remained the favorite destinations for Chinese tourists. However, the popularity of the US as a destination dropped from last year’s 5th spot to 10th, according to Ctrip.

Source: Global Times