SHANGHAI, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the 2019 Shanghai Tourism Festival opened Saturday evening, the festival, which began in 1990, has been a witness to China's development and citizens' consumption upgrade over the past few decades. Twenty-five floats, which represent China's well-known tourist destinations such as Nanjing and Suzhou cities in Jiangsu Province, and 32 performance groups from 19 countries and regions, including Germany, Switzerland, and France, participated in the dance and music show in downtown Shanghai, attracting some 300,000 spectators. The festival, which will last until Oct. 6, will feature 100 activities including some for overseas travelers. A folk culture exhibition on Belt and Road countries will also be held. Dozens of tourist sites, museums, and galleries in Shanghai will offer half-price admissions during the event.
The first tourism festival in Shanghai attracted half a million tourists from home and abroad. The 2018 festival attracted 12.7 million visitors. As people's living standards have improved remarkably, tourism is not a luxury anymore, but a necessity for many citizens. "In 1995, the company rewarded me with a trip to Hainan. I was so proud and cherished it very much," recalled a Shanghai taxi driver surnamed Guo, 54. "Now, our income has increased a lot, travel becomes a routine for most people who are willing to pay their own money to relax." Thirty years ago, ideal tourism resources were lacking, said Lu Guojun, a clerk with Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise Group Co., Ltd, citing the swaths of croplands along the eastern coast of the river which flows through the city center.
In recent years, with improved infrastructure and rapid development of the service economy, more companies have joined the development of river tourism, Lu said. Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy in Beijing, said people's aspirations for a better life lead to their high expectations of tourism quality. In August, China issued a guideline to unleash the cultural and tourism consumption potential, urging efforts to deepen supply-side reform in the cultural and tourism industries. On Friday, Shanghai signed agreements with six cities and regions including Budapest, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok to boost culture and tourism exchange. Culture and tourism promote mutual friendship and understanding, said Yu Xiufen, head of the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture and Tourism. In 2018, domestic tourists made 5.54 billion trips, up 10.8 percent year on year, and the total number of inbound and outbound tourists reached 291 million, up 7.8 percent. The total tourism revenue reached 5.97 trillion yuan (842.7 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up 10.5 percent, data of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism showed.