Big data promotes China's tourism
Beijing's Temple of Heaven is one of the destinations in a top 10 list of China's AAAAA scenic areas based on online reputations. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Big data plays a growing role in China's tourism. Xu Lin reports.
The tips independent travelers regularly share online are providing the tourism industry with a growing trove of big data about destinations, restaurants and hotels.
Travelers are increasingly making decisions based on internet reviews, so digital reputations are becoming increasingly important. And they're being quantified as more big data analysis is being applied to the tourism sector.
Beijing International Studies University recently released a top 10 list of China's AAAAA scenic areas based on big data analyses of their online reputations. It also presented five awards in such areas as service and environment to these sites. (AAAAA is the National Tourism Administration's highest rating.)
Beijing's Temple of Heaven, Fujian province's earthen buildings and Shanxi province's ancient city of Pingyao made the list.
The list was presented at the third annual Meeting of Smart Tourism and Marketing hosted by the university. Tourism experts and representatives of scenic spots and travel companies attended.
BISU's Tourism Big Data Center analyzed over 500,000 tourist reviews of all of China's 250 AAAAA Scenic Areas posted between January and early November on such major online travel platforms as Ctrip and Mafengwo.
They sorted the reviews into 10 categories, including transportation, safety and public-toilet signage.
China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) calls for an evaluation system of tourism destinations focusing on travelers' reviews. It also calls for the creation of a catalogue of excellent tourism providers and the promotion of their brands.
A China Tourism Academy report shows over 62 million Chinese traveled overseas in the first half of the year, 5 percent more than during the same period of 2016.
Nearly 70 million overseas tourists visited China in the first six months of 2017.
"Online reputations reflect travelers' comments about scenic spots in a relatively objective way," BISU's Tourism Big Data Center's executive director Deng Ning says.
"Our analyses will help scenic areas improve management and service, and to better market themselves."
Big data enables strategic decision making, he explains.
For instance, it shows the peak and low seasons, so providers can boost numbers during downtimes, using tactics such as cutting ticket prices.
But China's tourism industry's big data analysis is still in its infancy.
"Big data can be used to summarize tourists' consumption and behaviors, and contribute to academic research of the tourism industry," BISU School of Tourism Management professor Zhang Lingyun says.
"The boom in social-networking platforms will produce more user-generated content, and their comments and travel experiences will largely affect others' decisions."
Experts also discussed the development of China's smart tourism and information-technology applications.
Artificial intelligence is the future of smart tourism, Zhang says. He suggests such possibilities as unmanned transportation and automated tour guides.
Already, augmented - and virtual-reality technologies can be used to vividly render ancient ruins' original splendor.
BES Woniu (Beijing) Tourist Attraction Management Co Ltd chair Xu Ting recalls his unique experience of using facial-recognition technology upon entering Wuzhen, a popular destination in Zhejiang province. The ancient water town is also celebrated as an IT hub.
"It's an inspiration to explore new ways of ticket-checking," he says.
"And artificial intelligence will optimize the management of scenic areas. The problem of management should be used to plan smart scenic areas. For example, big data analyses can measure scenic spots' capacity to accept visitors and vehicles."
Xu believes scenic areas will be better able to efficiently deploy such resources as staff and shuttle buses to avoid problems like overcrowding if tourists are able to book tickets online in advance.
He suggests scenic areas offer platforms for consultation, interaction, mobile payment and online promotion.
Beijing founded a tourism-industry big data center in partnership with the travel agency China CYTS Tours and mobile-data-service platform TalkingData this spring.
The center crunches data about visitor demographics, such as where they come from.
Indeed, big data will increasingly expand its role in China's travel sector.
It's poised to go beyond assessing reputations based on travelers' reviews to ensuring these reputations are increasingly deserved by improving their services.
Contact the writer at email@example.com
AAAAA destinations with the best online reputations
(listed in no particular order)
? The Temple of Heaven, Beijing
? The classical gardens of Suzhou, Jiangsu
? Slender West Lake in Yangzhou, Jiangsu
? Fujian's earthen buildings
? Yunyang Longgang National Geopark in Chongqing
? Gulangyu Island in Xiamen, Fujian
? Tongli Ancient Town in Suzhou, Jiangsu
? Pingyao Ancient City in Shanxi
? The ruins of Yin, the capital of the Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC), in Anyang, Henan
? Xixi National Wetland Park in Hangzhou, Zhejiang