“What Does Tourism Bring to China?,” Huiran Luo (2012) — Inquiry 3

ESL Composition Award 2011

Writer’s Reflection

The main idea of this essay is based on my traveling experiences in China. Every year, I travel to different scenic spots in China, and I have kept the habit up till now. As a participant, I deepened my understanding about the relationship between tourism, economy, and the environment. While tourism has a great future in China, the environment is becoming a major determinant for the development of tourism. Based on this key point and some important data cited, I illustrated three representative scenic spots in China and elaborated their side effects to the environment. Through the process of logical analysis and description, I hope my audience will have access to the landscape of what tourism brings to China. More importantly, I hope this essay provides more space for my readers to ponder environmentally friendly ways to develop tourism globally.


In terms of a wide range of relics in both coastal and inland areas, tourism is considered a pillar industry in China. A report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) indicates that China is poised to become the world’s second largest travel and tourism country by 2015 (Li). Since 1978, each year, tons of native and international tourists are fascinated by the gorgeous sceneries and cultural heritages in different parts of China. This fixed income from tourism not only boosts local economies, but also constitutes a share in the annual GDP of China. However, the rapid advancement of tourism is a double-edged sword. While it makes great contributions to fiscal income, the natural environments are severely polluted or even destroyed by anthropogenic activities. Currently, many renowned resorts in China are confronting the dilemma. Namely, the huge economic benefits made from tourism are inseparably correlated with the deterioration of the environment. Therefore, sustainable development is the most efficient way to get a win-win situation.

In China, tourism plays a dominant role in accelerating the development of the economy. The main beneficiaries of tourism development are employment rates and profits. For local economy, the prosperity of tourism serves as a driving force for several other related industries such as hotels, catering, transportation and handicraft industries. Revitalization of these subsidiary industries is in desperate need of labor force, which efficiently helps raise the local employment rate. In addition, based on the policy of reform and opening to the outside world issued by the Chinese government in 1978, international tourists have become a major group of travelers who bring about great profits China. As the receipts indicate, in 2004, international tourism contributed $25,739 million to Chinese foreign exchange, which accounts for 1.7% of China’s annual GPA (“The Economic Impact of Tourism”). As the tourism industry flourishes in China, the trend of rising employment rates and profits will undeniably become more obvious.

While China gets great economic benefits from the prosperous tourism industry, the rapid rise in tourism demand unavoidably triggers pollution and damage to the environment. Because of advancement in infrastructures and longer holidays, tourists have more access to visit scenic spots, which leads to heavy burdens on ecosystems and biodiversity. Tons of garbage caused by exceeding numbers of tourists seriously contaminates water sources while fuel-combustion vehicles are the main sources of air pollution. Moreover, the increasing number of hotels, restaurants and shops in scenic spots also results in contamination. Because of a lack of governmental policies and constraints, businessmen opt to neglect environmental protection aimed at maximizing their profits. In recent years, the anthropogenic pollution in tourism areas has gotten the wide attention of the Chinese government since many natural scenery and historical relics are reputed as world heritages, which have immeasurable cultural and economic value.

Lijiang Ancient Town is a prevailing traveling place located in Yunnan province of China. A case study in “China Population Resources and Environment” published in 2007 described the tourism development there. Before 1990, Lijiang was a poverty-stricken minority area whose local finances just relied on lumbering and agriculture. Taking advantage of Naxi culture and the attractive natural environment, Lijiang started to exploit resources of tourism in 1994, with great success subsequently. As the statistics indicated in the case study, in 2006, the total revenue from the tourism industry constituted more than half of its local GDP. However, the economic attainment achieved from over-commercialization is the main reason attributed to environmental deterioration. The researchers estimated that currently the average number of tourists is 11,000 every day which doubles in busy seasons (Ning and He). The tourism activities of these tourists heavily impact the local environment, especially the quality of water. Another major contributor to water pollution is the proliferation of infrastructures in Lijiang Ancient Town. According to the research in the case study, the reconstruction of the ancient town in 1994 prompted many local residents to rent their houses to businessmen who utilized these houses to develop accommodation, catering services and handicraft industry. From 2000 to 2006, the number of local houses used for commercial purpose increased from 419 to 1,586 (Ning and He). In order to pursue profits, many businessmen directly drained sewage into water sources without purification, which expedited the decline of water quality. In the long run, the deterioration of natural environment will cause huge damage to economic benefits as the result of decrease in the amount of visitors.

Another illustration which displays the conflict between the economy and the environment is tourism in Tibet. According to research, the establishment of Gormo-Lhasa Railway helps many tourists realize their visit to “the roof of the world”. In 2006, 2.5 million tourists traveled to Tibet producing 2.77 billion revenue for Tibetan tourism industry (“The Effect of Tourism on Tibet”). Nevertheless, as the consequence of large quantity of tourists and overload of transportation, the mass-packaging model of tourism puts huge pressure on the fragile environment of Tibet.

Since most of natural and cultural heritage locations in China are facing the same environmental challenge, Chinese government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like WWF came up with some detailed schemes to shrink the range of contamination. As the researchers concluded in the case study of Lijiang Ancient Town, the sustainable development of tourism asks for minimum level of pollution without diminishing economic benefits. Based on this goal, the plans of sustainable development emphasize people’s awareness on environmental protection and governmental regulation. For instance, in the analysis about tourism in Lijiang Ancient Town, researchers divided the countermeasures into three groups: moral education, infrastructure construction and water source protection (Ning and He). Undoubtedly, moral education is the best way to promote public awareness while infrastructure construction and water source protection are both indications of governmental regulation. In Lijiang, since the amount of waste water is beyond the ability of the drainage system, the local administration has a responsibility to invest in new sanitation equipment. Moreover, the rules for every scenic spot should be designed for preventing water sources from people’s harmful behaviors. For serious pollution caused by business activities, local government should keep the authority to levy penalties.

Eco-tourism is an efficient way to minimize the impact of tourism to ecosystems and biodiversity. Jiuzhaigou is a good example to identify the advantage of eco-tourism. Jiuzhaigou, which is known for its lake and waterfalls, became a world heritage site in 1992 as recorded. The statistics from WWF display that every day over 7000 tourists bring about a huge quantity of revenue through tourism in Jiuzhaigou. For the purpose of protecting natural environments and precious animals like the giant pandas in Juizhaigou, a group of officials and experts from WWF organized a meeting in 2003 to discuss the plan of ecotourism (“WWF helps promote ecotourism in China’s Jiuzhaigou World Heritage Site”). The most efficient method they came up with is to limit the number of tourists and road construction in this area. Currently, the measure has been successfully carried out in Juizhaigou without any economic loss.

For the development of tourism in China, the economic benefits and environmental deterioration are just two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, the Chinese government took measures to attract tourists for the purpose of stimulating economic growth. On the other hand, the burgeoning tourism in many places such as Lijiang, Tibet, and Jiuzhaigou worsens natural environment at a large scale. In order to change mass-tourism into eco-tourism, Chinese administration and environmental organizations struggle for realizing sustainable development of tourism. For both tourists and businessmen, it is necessary to improve the awareness of protection of the environment through education. In order to guarantee the implementation of policies, the government should formulate more rules. Furthermore, limiting the number of tourists and construction of roads should be set as rules to decrease pollution. The improved marketing resulting from sustainable development strongly ensures the constant profit made by tourism in China.

Works Cited

Li, Zijun. “China to Become Second Largest Tourism Economy within the Decade.” WorldWatch Institute. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.

Ning, Baoying and Yuanqing, He. “Tourism Development and Water Pollution: Case Study in LiJiang Ancient Town.” China Population Resources And Environment 17.5 (2007): 123-127. ScienceDirect. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

“The Economic Impact of Tourism.” World Tourism Barometer 4.2 (2006):2. United Nations ESCAP. Web. 3 Nov. 2010.

“The Effect of Tourism on Tibet.” Free Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign. 2008. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.

“WWF Helps Promote Ecotourism in China’s Jiuzhaigou World Heritage Site.” WWF. Web. 1 Nov. 2010.


Editorial Team’s Note

One of the goals of teaching public argument in first-year composition is to allow students to make inquiries into issues that are important to them and develop their own thoughtful point of view by integrating ideas and information from other sources. Luo’s essay exemplifies this process and writing, not just as an International student, but as a Freshman student in general. After first acknowledging that much of her audience puts a high value on the economic health of China, and thus tourism, Lou outlines the negative effects, using specific places as illustrations. But instead of seeing tourism and the environment in pure opposition, Lou proposes a third option–”eco-tourism.” Tourism and ecology are “two sides of the same coin” and must stay in balance. Historical relics and scenic beauty are obviously valuable to Luo. By thoughtfully engaging her sources, she is able to adapt her argument to an audience who is concerned for the economic well-being of China.