Since May 2017, Quzhou, a tourist destination in Zhejiang Province, canceled the admission fees of its 13 major scenic spots during weekdays with subsidies from the government.
According to the municipal government, the move led to a loss of 30 million yuan (US.7 million） in ticket revenue in 2017. This year, the number of admission-free days will increase to 243, which could translate to as much as four times the ticket revenue loss from last year.
The city officials are optimistic. Zheng Qiping, director of the Quzhou Travel Committee, said, "The concession on admission fees is aimed at attracting more tourists and prolong their stay, which will boost our overall tourism industry."
The boost to tourism traffic was immediate. The single day number of tourists on the 23rd free-admissions weekday in Quzhou exceeded 1 million, over 10 times that of the same day the previous year.
Moreover, despite the loss of revenue from tickets, the overall tourism revenue at the 13 scenic spots rose. Direct consumption in tourism reached more than 200 million yuan, and the revenue of related industries increased by 860 million yuan.Tourists also arrived from an increased number of cities around China, from 167 in 2016 to 243 in 2017.
As more tourists flocked in, peripheral industries in the city thrived. Restaurants began innovating on local dim sum recipes, and Nianbadu Town, a nearby cultural site, is planning to construct a museum to exhibit local dialects.
In 2017, Quzhou created two new 4A-class tourist areas and 37 3A-class scenic villages, ranking first in the province in terms of the number and the growth rate. Hotels in the area, accordingly, added 50 percent more beds.
But with 50,000 tourists arriving per day, the city is in dire need of more hotel rooms and tour guides, said Gong Xiaofeng, director of the Promotion Center of the Quzhou Travel Committee.
Nevertheless, the transformation from a fee-based tourism industry to a service-based economy is in full swing. Zheng said the city did not prepare its service sector to the fullest for the influx of tourists, but instead forced it to meet the challenge.
In response, investment in food and beverage, retail and entertainmentis on the rise, reassuring local tourism officials that they had made the right move in eliminating weekday tickets from the scenic spots.
Zheng said the long-term goal of Quzhou's tourism industry is to offer free admissions at all scenic spots throughout the city.