As an almost-10-year staff in travel industry, from time to time I hear customer say that traveling to China is expensive than they thought. And I have to admit that to some extent, it’s true. Here’s why.
Let’s just think about it. Is it really that enjoyable to have to take care of everything from hotel booking to ordering from a Mandarin-only menu while having precious and limited holiday time? Do basic English descriptions (or even none) at attractions sate appetites for a deeper insight into the mystery of this land? Does a guidebook offer the best angle for a wonderful shot or a hidden charm that only locals know? I am afraid not.
So, travelling independently may cost a bit cheaper and work on other parts of the earth, but not in a non-English country like China, especially when further factor in the complex transportation, less tourist-friendly infrastructure in sightseeing spots across the country. For most western travelers, a tour operator who can offer organized itinerary and qualified tour guide is the very basic, though it may cost a bit higher. Sometimes you may find the cost difference between a tour package and self-help tour isn’t as big as you thought, this is because of the favorable rate on accommodation and transportation a tour operator can get due to bulk-buying.
I think an ideal travel experience is to dig the most out of a destination at a relaxing and comfortable rhythm, I guess quite a lot of you hold the same viewpoint with me. In this regard, no one would expect an up-to-30-minute wait for other 30 (or more) travelers in your group to show up before departure every morning, or the frustration to miss the explanation from tour guide when you are busy with taking pictures or dealing with kids, not mention the inconvenience when a personal need and interest conflict with a pre-set itinerary and no chance to adjust for other travelers are there.
That’s why I always advocate the tailor made & private tour service from a China-based tour operator is the best choice for travelers craving for knowing the real China while stay private, comfortable, flexible and carefree. Without other travelers share some of the tour cost, a private tour seems cost a little bit higher than a group tour on the surface. But with the very limit price difference with group tour, a private & tailor made service is guaranteed with a unique and in-depth interaction with China, which is far from comparable by group tour and make it a more cost-effective way.
Many travelers may notice that China is getting more expensive than years before, no matter you travel independently, join in a group tour or escorted by a private tour. Several factors including Renminbi appreciation, admission fee rise, increasing fuel fee and labor cost etc. all result it this trend, which by far shows no sign to stop.
Chinese official currency Renminbi (Yuan) has continued to appreciate since the exchange rate regime reform taken in 2005. According to report, the Chinese Renminbi has appreciated almost 30 percent since 2005. The exchange rate of Renminbi hits 6 against the U.S. dollar in 2016. Euros and dollars are no longer worth as much as they used to be in China. The internal devaluation and external appreciation of Renminbi led to the rise in prices of land, real estate and commodities. The direct influence on travelers is that they have to pay more for dining and accommodation.
Discussions are getting heated online about the price hikes at many tourist spots. More than 20 major tourist spots in China raised the admission fees in the recent years. Most national-level scenic spots and World Heritage Sites in China charge higher admission fee than their international counterparts. For example, it is cheaper for a group of four to enter the Yellow Stone National Park (US$12 per head) than one person set foot on Jiuzhaigou (RMB 220 or US$34), a national park in Sichuan province famed for its turquoise lake. Why the admission fees of tourist attractions in China are so expensive? This is because the travel industry in China is still immature. Domestic travelers are unwilling to eat or purchase souvenirs in tourist spots which therefore make profits mainly from admission fees. Some tourist spots limit the number of visitors for upkeep and maintenance by raising admission fees. And because of the particularity of tourism in China, there is basically no restriction mechanism to deter them from raising admission fees.
Admission fee of Wulinyuan Scenic and Historic Area, a part of Zhangjiajie Forest Park in Hunan: CNY248 (US$40.10)
Chinese authorities raised the price of gasoline by more than 3 % because of high crude oil prices on the international market. This has impacts on many aspects of China tours. Not only transportation is getting more expensive but also the prices on the menus are higher - the cost for shipping food materials to restaurants is increased.
Another important factor that caused the rising cost of travelling in China is the increased labor cost. There is an average annual 14% growth in wages in the country during the past decade. Travel agencies have to pay more to hire excellent tour guides and this ultimately results in price increase.
So, if like many others, you take China a destination to visit at least once in life, I would argue now is the best time to carry out your China travel plan, before it’s getting more expensive.
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