Overseas tourists continued to shun Beijing through 2013.
Amid rising pollution and a strengthening yuan, the capital city saw its tourist numbers drop to 4.20 million visits from January to November from 5.01 million visits in 2012, according to China Daily, citing a report from China Tourism Academy and Beijing Commission of Tourism Development. An earlier report based on a survey of domestic travel agents showed that visitors to the capital declined by roughly 50% in the first three-quarters of the year compared with a year earlier.
The number of inbound travelers to Beijing grew after the city hosted the 2008 Olympics until 2012, when it saw a 3.8% decline, followed by the further drop last year.
The unexpected drop in 2013 came in spite of new policies--such as the city's 72- hour visa waiver for transit passengers--that were introduced in an attempt to nurture China's tourism industry.
But only 14,000 tourists took advantage of the visa-free stopover, according to the Beijing General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection, well short of the 20,000 target officials had previously predicted.
Jiang Yiyi, deputy director of the Institute of International Tourism at the China Tourism Academy, attributed part of the dropoff in foreign tourists to the strengthening yuan.
In 2013, the yuan appreciated almost 3% against the U.S. dollar, making 'Beijing a more expensive destination than in the past,' Jiang Yiyi noted.
At the same time, she said, other countries have seen their tourist numbers spike as the currencies weaken.
'While RMB is on the rise, currencies from some of China's competitors for tourism, such as Japan, are depreciating, meaning travel to some other Asian countries has been getting cheaper while travel to China is becoming more costly,' Jiang Yiyi said.
In 2013, the yen fell 21% against the U.S. dollar, helping it to attract 10 million overseas tourists--including, despite Sino-Japanese border disputes in the East China Sea, many wealthy travelers from China.
The Beijing Tourism Development Commission noted that the country's battle with pollution is another obstacle cities face in attracting inbound tourists.
Heavy air pollution from Beijing, which saw its worst bout of smog in recent history in January, to Shanghai, where pollution levels went off the charts in December, certainly don't do much to help attract tourists.
China's tourism officials are looking to reverse the trend of declining inbound visitors in 2014--possible, experts say, if it revamps its outdated tour packages and lowers ticket prices.
Jiang Yiyi at the China Tourism Academy suggests China adopt a long-term national plan to improve the country's image and investment in inbound tourism to attract more visitors.
Hopefully the experts come up with a better plan than one that fell flat earlier this year. The country's tourism body unveiled a 'Beautiful China' logo in February to market the country overseas, but the campaign was mocked for its contrast with the many photos of China's not-so-beautiful cities shrouded in pollution.
《中国日报》(China Daily)援引中国旅游研究院(China Tourism Academy)和北京市旅游发展委员会(Beijing Commission of Tourism Development)的一篇报告称，污染状况加剧以及人民币升值，使得北京去年1月至11月间的外国游客数量从2012年同期的501万人下降至420万人。此前一份基于对国内旅行社的调查的报告显示，去年前三个季度赴北京旅游的游客数量较上年同期下降约50%。
然而据北京出入境边防检查总站(Beijing General Station of Exit and Entry Frontier Inspection)称，只有14,000名旅客办理了过境免签手续，远低于官方此前预计的20,000人。
中国旅游研究院国际旅游研究所(Institute of International Tourism)副所长蒋依依认为，外国游客数量下降的部分原因在于人民币的升值。