Coast clear for tourism

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2011, 12:00am

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Qingdao has everything that makes a world-class tourist destination: beautiful coastal scenery, temperate weather, historical architecture and a relaxed lifestyle. It's also where people come for water sports and where drinking beer has developed into a unique culture.

The city, which was named China's best leisure city last month, is located on the southern tip of the Shandong peninsula in the northeast of the mainland. Qingdao covers an area of 11,282 square kilometres, with a population of 8.71 million.

The city also represents a new model in the mainland's tourism development, with emphasis shifting from being merely a sightseeing destination to one engaging visitors in leisure and sports activities to enrich the quality of life and achieve a proper balance between economic construction and natural environment.

The city government plans to develop Qingdao into an international seaside holiday destination and the nation's No1 centre for water sports. Qingdao hosted the sailing events of the Summer Olympics in 2008.

It plans to transform tourism into a pillar industry, contributing 6 per cent of the city's gross domestic product by 2015. Tourism revenues are expected to grow at an annual rate of 21 per cent to reach 150 billion yuan (HK$183 billion) by 2015, while foreign exchange earnings should rise 10 per cent a year to reach US$1billion.

A task force across government departments is being formed to lead the development of tourism sectors. Plans are also under way to diversify tourism by introducing hot spring resorts, village resorts and eco-tourism facilities on the mainland and offshore islands. It will also host conventions and major international sports and culture events.

The development of the leisure industry will form a core part of Qingdao's mission as a pilot ground for developing the 'Blue Economic' initiative, proposed by President Hu Jintao when he visited Shandong province in 2009 and suggested setting up the Shandong Blue Economic Area.

The goal is to achieve economic growth by using the geographical advantages enabled by the ocean, such as developing the port logistics industry, modern fisheries, coastal tourism and marine manufacturing and services. The city has drawn up a master plan and will invest 600 billion yuan over the next five years to construct the Qingdao Blue Economic Zone with more than 300 major projects.

Until now, Qingdao's economy has been supported mainly by traditional industries such as textiles, cars, machinery, chemicals, petrochemicals, rubber and iron and steel.

Foreign investment started entering Qingdao in the mid-80s after the city was designated in 1984 as one of the first 14 coastal cities to be opened up. Most investments come from neighbouring South Korea and Japan, but in recent years there has been good growth from other counties, especially the United States.

Last year, Qingdao achieved GDP growth of 12.9 per cent to 566.62 billion yuan, with the disposable income of urban residents averaging 24,998 yuan, up 11.8 per cent.