By Zhang Rui
Wuhan, the COVID-19 outbreak epicenter, is regaining vitality, the city’s vice mayor said Saturday at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing.
“Due to the COVID-19 outbreak early this year, Wuhan’s tourism industry was halted and slipped into dormancy for a long period,” Chen Honghui, vice mayor of Wuhan, said at the World Conference on Tourism Cooperation and Development 2020 organized by the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF). “But now, the industry has revived, jumping from ice-cold market to warm and now to hot. Wuhan has come back alive with full power.”
To continue supporting this positive trend and to inject confidence into industrial growth, the Wuhan government initiated a campaign to make entry into 23 of the city’s most popular scenic spots free for all domestic visitors between August and December of this year.
Tourism has been a major feature of the city, renowned for its abundant and lush landscapes as well as its strong cultural traditions. As such, Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, has over the years become a top tourist destination in China.
Chen cited official government statistics that demonstrated a 34% increase in the number tourists who visited the city’s scenic spots in recent months compared with the number in the same period of the last year — that is, when Wuhan had not yet been struck by the novel coronavirus. Of those visitors, 44.9% came from outside the city.
In addition, he said that as a sign of gratitude to fellow countrymen, the people of Wuhan try not to flock to local sights during weekends and holidays, leaving more opportunities for tourists from outside the city to enjoy them.
Chen believes that Wuhan’s tourism recovery is highly compatible with the world tourism conference’s theme of “Rebuilding World Tourism for Prosperity,” one of the four summit forums of the CIFTIS. He added that Wuhan also provides an amazing example for recovery and development of the world’s tourism industry amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key feature of this recovery has been large-scale nucleic acid testing: in May of this year, Wuhan tested every single citizen, more than 10 million people in total, in the city. No single confirmed case was found. Over 130,000 samples from the public environment were also tested, with all results returning negative. As such, the vice mayor assured everyone that the city is a very safe destination.
Later that day, another Hubei Theme Day conference was held during the CIFTIS at the China National Convention Center, to promote businesses from Wuhan city and Hubei province.
Norwegian Ambassador to China Signe Brudeset attended the meeting, stating, “I think Hubei is the most dynamic province in China,” during a speech. Brudeset added that it is an incredible achievement for the province’s people to walk out of the shadow of the pandemic.
Saeki Takehiko, chief of the Japan External Trade Organization’s Wuhan office, said that Wuhan has been a leader in upholding China’s opening-up policy. According to him, Wuhan and Hubei have even more development potential, with 86% of Japanese enterprises in Wuhan having resumed work and 95% planning to expand their investment in Wuhan.
A total of 26 projects were signed at the Hubei Theme Day conference in areas of software development, cross-border e-commerce, digital animation, blockchain cooperation, biomedical development, and the environment and food safety testing.
In recent years, the scale of the service trade sector in Hubei has continued to expand. In 2019, the volume of the service trade reached 77.59 billion yuan, accounting for 19.69% all goods traded — 2 percentage points higher than the national average.
The 2020 CIFTIS runs from Sept. 4-9 in Beijing. It is the first major international economic and trade event held both online and offline by China since the COVID-19 outbreak.