Traveling China: What You Need to Know
"As the oldest Oriental civilization, China has everything travel planners are looking for," said Haybina Hao, Vice President of International Development, National Tour Association (NTA).
China is a hub for history, culture, cuisine, diverse climates, wildlife and more. Currently, 333 flights depart weekly from the United States mainland to China, and the weakened Chinese RMB against the United States dollar makes travel to China more affordable.
"All in all, not only is China a wonderful destination, it's also the right timing to visit China," said Hao.
If China is on your horizon, here are some important travel considerations.
There's more to China than the Great Wall.
The background of the planet Pandora and its Hallelujah Mountains in the movie Avatar is a real place, and it's located in China. Zhangjiajie, in central China, is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site and Global Geopark with 3,000 peaks.
"The steep mountains and the underground multilayered caves and mazes make it an ideal destination for the most courageous adventuress in the world," Hao said. "In addition, its rich tourism resources allow for all kinds of new tour products catered to the international market. Just watch how this destination will rise to surprise the world travel industry."
Additionally, China offers great opportunities for travelers to immerse themselves into Chinese culture. The country is home to 56 minorities such as the Tujia, Bai and Miao groups of Zhangjiajie, who could welcome travelers into their villages and homes to dine with the families, learn their crafts and join in cultural festivities. Visitors need not be passive observers of China's popular attractions and daily life; they are offered the opportunity to be explorers and participants.
Be prepared for economic disparity.
China's rapid economic development in recent decades has positioned the country as the second largest economy in the world, but it also resulted in huge disparities across regions.
"Travel planners need to be aware of the regional difference and often the logistics of uncertainties," said Hao. "While one can easily access anything and everything super-luxurious in Shanghai, he may not find a simple piece of sandwich in a remote city. While planning tours to the less-developed areas, keep in mind the less 'Westerner-ready' facilities and supplies."
Be prepared for such uncertainties and educate your groups, so everyone is ready to approach each situation with patience and flexibility.
Use China's advanced technology to your advantage.
China's advanced technology directly impacts the travel business. Not only does China have hundreds of millions of smartphone users, but a growing number of travel apps that help visitors navigate attractions. Pleco, for instance, is one of the best language-learning apps that aids travelers when they're unable to read signs, menus or translate a tourist attraction into Chinese. Be aware of the technology and the trends while travel planning to not only help your travelers operate smoothly in another culture, but to make the most of their trip.
Work with the experts.
"Work with reputable Chinese counterparts and utilize their expertise to save you time and grief," Hao said. There are many reputable NTA members, for instance, who are experts in inbound China travel and ready to work with North American counterparts. Working with experts can help you find great tour operations as well as help you avoid major setbacks, such as scheduling trips during China's national holidays, when travel can be difficult.
China is a timeless country with "layers and layers of stories," said Hao. And it's a great destination for travelers to create stories of their own.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.
Photo courtesy of Jordan Lloyd.