Funds sought to revive flagging tourism industry
Lilian Zhang and Anna Zhang
Tourism authorities in Xinjiang are ramping up efforts to revive the region's once booming travel industry, which has been hit hard by ethnic violence.
The region's tourism bureau is seeking 5 million yuan (HK$5.68 million) in emergency funds to help tourism-related companies, Xinhua quoted the bureau's party chief, Chi Chongqing, as saying.
Xinhua said about 3,400 domestic and overseas tourist groups - approximately 200,000 travellers - had cancelled trips to Xinjiang by Sunday, causing one billion yuan in losses.
Mr Chi hoped price cuts and other inducements could attract about 50,000 tourists before the end of next month.
But some tourism agencies in Xinjiang said they had not heard from authorities about the subsidies and were still struggling to attract business.
'I don't know about that policy, and we haven't receive any subsidies from authorities yet,' Jiao Haiyan, manager of Xinjiang Comfort Nature International Travel, said.
'We have suffered a lot from the riot. More than 200 tourists have cancelled their trips this month. And since fewer tourists will come, the prices will drop by 20 per cent. We hope the government can make more efforts on promoting Xinjiang and its sites in order to boost our business.'
Tour operators from Xinjiang Kunpeng Travel Agency shared the same view.
'I've no idea about the subsidies,' one employee said. 'We have lost more than 1,000 guests as all of our groups in July were cancelled, and even some in August and September. Now there are some people calling for information, but nothing has been confirmed yet.'
However, some tourists were starting to return to the region.
Shanghai Yinfa Travel Agency yesterday sent out their first group since the riots.
'About 40 people registered for our package tour over a month ago. Half of them cancelled their trip after the riot, but the rest insisted on visiting the region,' an employee surnamed Chen said. 'Neither the price nor the trip route has been adjusted, but we will ensure them better accommodation.'
Shanghai Zhenqu Travel Agency, which also sent a group of 19 tourists to Xinjiang yesterday, said they believed the region is safe enough now as the authorities have already taken measures to ensure the security. But the agency insists it has plans in place in case the situation takes a turn for the worse.
'We offered each of them free accident insurance, and will change the hotel from the Big Bazaar area [of Kashgar] to the neighbourhood with more Han people,' Shen Jianhua, manager of the company, said.
She said the company would decide whether to organise bigger groups next month, if this group returns safely.
Xinjiang is battling to save its once-thriving tourism sector
The estimated number of tourists that have cancelled trips following the ethnic violence: 200,000