China tourism hotspots struggle to recover as visitors stay away

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The extent of the damage to domestic tourism from lockdowns in China’s hotspots is becoming clearer.

Xinjiang, in the west of the country, saw a 76 percent plunge in visitors in August compared to July, local officials said on Wednesday.

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The region had seen an influx of travelers that pushed hotel bookings to near pre-pandemic levels before a surge in cases last month prompted snap lockdowns. The result was the stranding of tens of thousands of tourists.

Liu Quan, an official from Xinjiang’s culture and tourism department, said in a briefing on Wednesday that the government will work hard to reinvigorate the industry and help businesses overcome this challenging period.

The region reported 29 Covid cases for Wednesday, down from a peak of 900 daily infections in mid-August.

Similar scenes unfolded in other popular destinations including southern Hainan province, dubbed “China’s Hawaii,” and Tibet. Hainan, which has yet to report visitor numbers for August, saw its visitor numbers plummet 17 percent in the first seven months this year from a year earlier.

More than 100,000 tourists were trapped in hotels when Hainan locked down last month, while tens of thousands of holidaymakers were stranded in Tibet.

The risk of new shutdowns may undermine peoples’ willingness to travel, dealing a fresh blow to the airlines, hotels, tour guides and restaurants which depend on what was an $830 billion industry before the pandemic began.

Some 33 cities have been fully or partially locked down in the current outbreak, according to a report by local media Caixin.

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