Tourism boards the world over consider themselves salespeople of “products”: the essence of a city or region turbocharged with retail experiences, theme parks, resorts and the like. China’s 14th Five-Year Tourism Development Plan, issued by the State Council on January 20, fits the bill. Absent is the notion that tourism should entail dropping in on a place as unobtrusively as possible, to experience how the locals live perhaps, and in its stead is the idea that “new development concepts must be implemented” so that “mass tourism consumption needs will be better satisfied”. To be fair, the report – at least the English-language digital version of it – does stress the need to protect the environment, conserve cultural history and improve the livelihoods of those whose backyards are being visited, but the idea that more is necessarily better pervades. So what is envisaged for the industry in China? During the 2021 to 2025 period, the country will “fully enter the era of mass tourism”, and the domestic market – particularly rural tourism, including cultural and outdoor recreation – will develop significantly. Not surprisingly, given the closure of international borders by Covid-19, domestic tourists are the focus, and much of the report is concerned with making internal travel as seamless as possible: transport and traffic monitoring, meteorology, surveying and mapping, 5G mobile communication, big data, and cloud computing are all identified as tools with which China can make the movement of the masses as friction-free as possible. Also urged is the upgrading of car parks, roads, camping grounds, tourist service centres and toilets – there are several references to toilets in the report, and quite rightly, too! Many a holiday experience has been ruined by a filthy bathroom. Will Hongkongers – and the rest of Asia – ever holiday abroad again? A lot is expected from “red tourism” and the development of places significant to the Communist Party; Chinese tourists are urged to “carry forward the revolutionary spirit / the Jinggangshan spirit / the Long March spirit / the Yan’an spirit / the Xibaipo spirit”. A system of natural reserves based on national parks is promoted and agritourism, rail travel, and villages and towns with ethnic characteristics are all seen as worthy of increased attention. Leisure belts and cycling trails should be established around cities, and the opening up of the countryside, “beautiful villages” and parks will, it is believed, lead to more Chinese tourists taking minibreaks. Areas singled out as being of high tourism value include the Taihang and Wuling mountain ranges, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei (capital) region, the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the waterway’s delta, the ecologically important Yellow River basin, the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Sports Cultural Tourism Belt, the Bashu Cultural Tourism Corridor (between Chengdu and Chongqing), and Anhui’s Huangshan area. A new Tibet-Yunnan-Guangxi Border Tourism Belt is something to be excited about, we’re told, as are trails along the Silk Road and the Ancient Yunnan-Tibet Tea-Horse route , and in the western borderlands and Greater Shangri-La. The report urges the establishment of “world class” tourism hub cities, Guilin being given as an example. Innovation is urged for Hebei province’s Xiongan New Area, while the development of the Hainan International Tourism Consumption Centre and Pingtan International Tourism Island, south of Fuzhou in Fujian province, are highlighted. Different areas of the country have different roles to play, according to the plan. The eastern seaboard is seen as driving the modernisation of tourism and enhancing its core competitiveness. The central region will help increase the integration of tourism resources and promote the upgrading of tourism brands. The western region will benefit from its natural ecology, folk customs and border scenery, and see considerable construction of tourism infrastructure. Winter sports and eco-tourism are strengths associated with the northeast of the country: a post-Winter Olympics “ice and snow tourism belt with international influence”. And what of l’il ol’ Hong Kong? The city doesn’t get much of a mention until later in the report, and then the emphasis is put on the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area , the aim being to “create a world-class tourism destination” (which it isn’t already, one must presume). Authorities voice their support for “the prosperity and development of Hong Kong’s tourism industry, and strengthened cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong tourism industry in the exchange of […] sources, publicity and marketing”. The city is positioned as a “Chinese-foreign cultural and artistic exchange centre”. As for Taiwan , the plan urges the promotion of “cross-strait cooperation in rural tourism [and] creative product development”, tourism being “an effective way to enhance Chinese cultural identity and enhance the cohesion of the Chinese nation”. Australia doesn’t need Chinese tourists, apparently … or does it? The good news for foreign tourists interested in visiting China is that their return is sought – eventually. Understandably, the resumption of inbound tourism will happen “step by step and in an orderly manner”, with reference to Covid-19 prevention and control domestically and internationally. When the time comes, though, foreign visitors should be welcomed by better trained multilingual tour guides who will be able to “tell Chinese stories well, and enrich and enhance the national tourism image”. Cruising – including on inland waterways – self-drive tours, winter sports and “low-altitude tourism” (including helicopter sightseeing, paragliding, parachute jumping and hot-air ballooning) are singled out as activities that may appeal to international visitors as well as domestic tourists. Once Chinese tourists are able to head out in numbers into the world again, they will not only be reminded that they must be aware of the health requirements at home and abroad; they will also have to be “good disseminators of Chinese culture and national image displayers”. The idea is to “strengthen two-way tourism exchanges with key destination countries and promote the spread of Chinese culture”. The themes that come through loud and clear in the 14th Five-Year Tourism Development Plan are that, as China strives to become a world tourism power by 2035, the industry should promote harmony, civility and prosperity at home while projecting soft power abroad and to foreign tourists when they return to the country. And China will have just the “products” necessary to ensure these goals are achieved. Slow and steady … doesn’t win the race Vietnam welcomed more than 19,700 international arrivals in January 2022, up 11.2 per cent year on year, but the reopening of the country is not happening nearly fast enough for 11 of its biggest companies, reports the VnExpress newspaper. Heavyweights including Vietnam Airlines, VietJet, Vietravel, Saigontourist, the Thien Minh Group and the Sun Group have submitted a petition asking Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to announce in early February a timeline for fully reopening the country to foreign tourists. The resumption in tourism would help save the aviation and travel industries and bring relief to 2.5 million tourism workers from a crisis that has lasted two years, since Covid-19 broke out, said the petition. The group wants the government to allow foreign tourists who are vaccinated free entry and movement. Presently, visitors are allowed only into designated localities and to travel in the vicinity of their hotel. News agency Xinhua reports that in January, 88 per cent of the 19,700 foreign visitors who entered the country did so by air and 70.2 per cent of the arrivals were from Asia, according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam.