While an ongoing tourism industry clean-up in Yunnan has presented difficulties to tourism players used to the old ways of conducting business, they are also being nudged towards overhauling their tour formats to have a stronger focus on community-based tourism.
Despite seeing business dip since 22 new measures and regulations – which include prohibition of forced shopping, strict punishment for tourist fraud and stronger regulation of tour guides – were implemented in April this year, Turenyou Travel Service’s managing director Mo Xian said the move is a step in the right direction.
Mo told TTG Asia that before the clampdown, Yunnan had the fifth most tour-related complaints in the country, but now ranks sixth from last.
Since the new measures have been implemented, some tourist-reliant shops have closed, travel agency operating licences have been revoked, and tour guides fined or stripped of their licences, he shared.
For many other tour companies in the province however, the government’s efforts have prompted a shift from sightseeing to local experiences – such as cultural immersion, educational programmes, themed packages and community-based tourism that involve meaningful interactions with ethnic minorities.
Mo admitted that his company used to conduct sightseeing trips, where tourists were taken on a touch-and-go culture tour, before being guided to shops.
“Retail was a main focus,” he recalled.
He has since transformed his business to cater to students and families on language and educational programmes, and hill tribe experiences.
Compared to before, when resources were focused on driving retail spending, he said they were now being channelled into leveraging tourism to sustain communities in Yunnan.
“These changes allow for diverse cultures to flourish, which in turn benefits the broader tourism industry and all of Yunnan,” he remarked.
And in Lijiang’s tourism hotspot Yu Long (Jade Dragon) Mountain, tour groups have markedly decreased since the clean-up, while FITs are on the rise, according to He Yun, sales manager at Li Jiang Yu Long Mountain Tourism Development office.
He said that rather than have the destination pander to tour groups, the office is now focused on investing in infrastructural development, as well as skills training for guides and other tourism professionals.