Is China a Suitable Country for Hosting a Large Cultural Festival? By Audrey Wessels (16623977)

An introduction

China. The manufacturing capital of the world; home to The Great Wall; known for vast landscapes of rice paddy fields. Despite the incredible natural and cultural resources, is china ready to play host to a major festival? This website will evaluate China on its suitability for hosting a large-scale cultural event. It will analyse whether the country has the required characteristics to be successful such as appropriate infrastructure, stability and natural resources. The concept of mobility will assist with this; Sheller (2011) describes this as the physical movement of people and objects as well as the transmission of data information through communications and the use of technology. To be a successful host country, China should have well developed telecommunications and physical networks to support efficient mobility. The goal of any event is to create a memorable experience for customers. The experience economy is the purchasing of a memorable event in which the product being sold is the memory. This is becoming more important as products and services on their own are no longer enough for customers (Pine and Gilmore, 1998).

This country has one of the highest international tourist arrival figures (China Tourism Report, 2015) so is clearly a desirable place to visit, both for business and leisure travel. It was the fourth most popular destination in both 2014 and 2015 for international travellers (UNWTO, 2016) and has held consistent high rankings in previous years. Despite all this, China faces many potential threats which will be discussed further.


• Identify any unique features China has that could impact its performance as a host country.

• Investigate the current infrastructure levels to see if they are sufficient for a large-scale event.

• Analyse a past mega event on its successes and failures.

Travel Flows

As briefly mentioned before, travel to China is very popular, being ranked fourth for the number of arrivals in the past 2 years (UNWTO, 2016) so there is no shortage of interest. Last year alone, the UNWTO (2016) states that they had 56.9 million international visitors which is both a blessing in terms of possible attendance for this future event and a curse due to safety concerns about overcrowding and reaching full capacity. However, it also indicates that China is capable of efficiently organising many people and that it has adequate transport systems to allow this mass movement.

Most international arrivals are from Asia and Europe, which contributed 54.5% and 16.7% of inbound arrivals respectively in 2016 (BMI research, 2016). China's role as a manufacturer for the global supply chain and as a financial region also make it a major business destination, particularly attracting visitors to the main cities. South Korea is by far the largest generator of tourists for China, with total inbound arrivals of 4.6 million in 2016 (BMI research, 2016). However, record highs of pollution in Beijing and Shanghai could deter visitors. The East of China is the most populous area and receives the most tourists, this is due in part to being where the most popular tourist attractions are: The Terracotta Army (Shaanxi province), Forbidden City (Beijing) and Great Wall (Lonely Planet, 2016).

From this pie chart, it can be seen that leisure spending is almost four times higher than business spending from tourists. They are both expected to continue contributing more money to GDP year on year.

GDP contributions pie chart (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2016)

Domestic Travel Trends

China has the largest domestic travel market in the world with over 2 billion domestic travellers in 2015 which is a 10% increase from the previous year; contributing 4% of the GDP (BMI Research, 2015). The country’s population is the largest in the world with over 1.4 billion people who have grown up with exploring their own country as one of their traditions, particularly travelling a lot during cultural and religious events, national holidays and large festivals such as Chinese New Year celebrations (BMI Research, 2016). This is partly because only a relatively small percentage of nationals own a passport, making international travel restricted.

Railway usage is very popular with locals, over 826,433 million passengers took trains in 2014 (BMI Research, 2015). China has an increasingly affluent middle class and a government who is eager to invest in infrastructure and tourism. This makes it an attractive place for outside investors too, they are enticed by the strong traditions of domestic travel. Cultural events could use this to their advantage by attracting people from all over the country during public holidays.


China has all the expected modern forms of transport including cars, aeroplanes and buses. Whilst most of China has well established roads, city roads can be very congested and rural areas might not have any tarmacked surfaces. By the end of 2006, there were still over 90,000 settlements not accessible by a highway (CNTA, 2016). Buses are cheap and frequent between popular destinations but are quite inaccessible to tourists with timetables only being in Mandarin and little to no online information about services.

Air travel is the most popular form of transport; there were 3.5 million take-offs alone in 2014 (BMI Research, 2015). Beijing Capital International Airport was reportedly the 9th busiest in the world (CNTA, 2016). Around 500 new airports are planned to be built in the country by 2020; these will aim to connect more scenic destinations in the West as well as agricultural regions to help develop tourism (BMI Research, 2016).

Rail is popular for internal migration between regions. There are plans for a cross-border railway line to encourage visitors from neighbouring countries (BMI Research, 2016). Also, the Silk Road project aims to connect more rural areas in the North West (BMI Research, 2015). The subway is cheap but systems are currently only available in four cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin (CNTA, 2016).

China could be considered one of the leaders in new transportation with ideas like this elevated bus which allows cars to still pass underneath when driving.

Resources and Key Events

There is a wealth of both cultural and natural resources in China. The country is vast with a variety of landscapes from major bustling cities like Beijing and Shanghai to the famous Gobi Desert and Himalayan mountain range. The most popular natural tourist attractions include: Mount Everest in Tibet (an autonomous region); Tiger Leaping Gorge near Lijiang; the Li River in Guilin and the Yellow Mountains in Huangshan (China Highlights, 2016). Each of these offers something unique to the country, Mount Everest is part of the Himalayas and is the tallest mountain in the world, bringing in mountaineers and charity fundraisers. The Li River is a picturesque place that has river cruises which are popular with photographers, artists and those looking for a more tranquil side to the country.

Cultural buildings and monuments play a large role in tourism, the most popular being the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Terracotta Army (Lonely Planet, 2016). Each of these offer a snapshot into the fascinating history of China from the ancient dynasties and emperors to the roots of Buddhism. These would entice Buddhists who believe that pilgrimage is an important practice and those who are interested in history. All of this makes it stand out as a destination because few places can measure up to their wealth of resources, including 50 World Heritage sites (UNESCO, 2016).

Events and holidays are important to the Chinese people. The most well know festivals are Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Lantern Festival (Travel China Guide, 2016). These are celebrations centred around large community gatherings with lots of food and bright colours. Families travel across the country to be together, especially during the new year. There are many cultural festivals celebrated already in China but they are mostly on a local scale, this proposed new large event is treading in unknown waters so its potential is not yet known.

Beijing Olympics 2008

China hosted their first Olympic games in Beijing in 2008 with three main concepts: being green, high-tech and for the people. A record number of 204 countries took part that year, Togo and Tajikistan are two examples of the many nations who won Olympic medals for the first time (Olympic Games, 2016). This high level of participation along with 70,000 volunteers (Olympic Games, 2016) and many more spectators meant that there was a large influx of visitors to the country that summer although the usual number of tourists avoided the city because of it.

The cycle road race took place next to the Great Wall and passed the Forbidden City in attempt to advertise their cultural resources and potentially attract visitors. Beijing was trying to modernise to keep up with competing westernised nations. To try and accelerate its development, the public utilities were renovated including water supply and electricity which is helping to transform the lives of locals (Beijing Organising Committee, 2010). The Bird’s Nest had a water collection system and geothermal heat pumps to live up to its environmental commitments with a record 246 days of blue sky in 2007 compared to only 100 days in 1998 (Beijing Organising Committee, 2010) which was a huge step forward in running sustainable large-scale events.

The estimated cost was $42 billion for the 37 new structures, including many specifically built facilities like the Bird’s Nest stadium, with low return on investment which contributed to the financial crisis in 2009 (Singh and Zhou, 2015). However, the global attention bought investment from businesses and more tourists from 2009 onward. Chinese took great pride as hosts, they enjoyed exhibiting their growth and became more hospitable.

Opening ceremony in the Bird’s Nest stadium (Olympic Games, 2016)

SWOT Analysis

There are several strengths that China has in this industry with a large range of historic, natural and cultural attractions to charm visitors (Boniface et al., 2012). There is an actively investing government who endeavour to impress the rest of the world through their technological advancements and strong economy. Boasting a very high international arrival figure year on year continues to secure investment from foreign transnational corporations (BMI Research, 2015).

However, the country comes with its inevitable weaknesses too. China isn’t yet completely modernised so lacks services that some would consider essential such as uncensored internet with foreign media websites blocked as well as information regarding some of their political past. Furthermore, outside of the main tourist areas, there is little spoken English which makes it more challenging for tourists to engage and use amenities such as transport systems. There are visa restrictions in place which limit how long internationals can stay and is biased towards certain nationalities, putting off some tourists.

To be able to analyse China fully, opportunities in tourism and events need to be examined. Tourism is expanding to new regions with the development of better infrastructure in rural areas. Since the 2008 summer Olympic games, social attitudes of nationals have changed to become more open and hospitable towards international groups (BMI Research, 2015).

Unfortunately, there are several threats to the industry which need to be considered. One of these is the political corruption and unstable ties with other countries such as the USA and Japan (GOV.UK, 2016). Strict laws including the death penalty for crimes which wouldn’t be considered as major in the western world including drug trafficking. Natural disasters potentially scare off visitors, the country has large fault lines through it and is prone to serious earthquakes and typhoons. In addition to this, there are very high levels of air pollution which can have negative consequences to health in the long term, especially in Shanghai and Beijing (GOV.UK, 2016).

Conclusion and Recommendations

This website shows that China could be a suitable country for a large cultural event because there is already a well-established tourism market in China. This inevitably means that there is sufficient transport to and within the country to cope with this. Likewise, there is a great deal of resources to be made use of, each offering unique opportunities and qualities whether the festival is going to be centred around the natural environment or the lengthy history of China. As well as attracting international tourists, there is a tradition of domestic travel especially during popular cultural holidays which could be used to benefit future events.

However, precautions need to be taken to ensure the safety of any attendees as a priority. Checking the status of their politics to minimise the likelihood of terror attacks and tensions is essential. Also, it would be advisable to plan the festival outside of the typhoon season to avoid the heavy rain and flooding over the summer which comes at the same time as extreme heat which is difficult to manage safely with large crowds. Having a website for the event with information about local customs, public transport recommendations and Mandarin basics could make the trip more seamless and enjoyable for all who visit.

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Created with images by Thomas Depenbusch - "Wuxi, Jiangsu, China" • Hiljon - "aircraft manchester jet" • CodeCondo - "rail railway train tracks" • Quinn Ryan Mattingly - "Trail" • crazy777 - "tibet mount everest trekking" • DEZALB - "china li river rade" • xiquinhosilva - "49400-Nanjing" • Pedronet - "Great Wall of China" • USAGI_POST - "facing garden gyeongbok palace cultural property" • christels - "terracotta army china xi'an" • WikiImages - "hurricane bob 1991" • Thomas Depenbusch - "Wuxi, Jiangsu, China" • IsaacMao - "Smoking factories along China rail road"

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