The Soul of Travel


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On June 21st, Mr. Su Tong, founder and CEO of Hylink Digital, delivered a travel and tourism-focused speech at Tsinghua University. He surveyed the current climate of the China tourism industry and shared insights on its future.

With the explosive growth of the tourism market, a person’s incentive to travel is no longer to simply ‘check-in’ at scenic spots or tourist attraction, but because he or she wants to obtain an authentic, locals experience and cultural exchange.

Data released by UnionPay also revealed the changes taking place in China's tourism industry: compared to 2016, the entertainment consumption of domestic tourism consumption increased by 334%, and the entertainment consumption of oversea tourism consumption increased by 83.6%. By way of contrast, shopping expenditures of tourism consumption dropped by nearly 40% compared to last year, further signifying travelers’ desire for more experiential travel over more materially-driven vacations; it’s about acquiring experiences, instead of goods.               

With the shift in tourists’ demands, outbound travel has become increasingly popular, and domestic travel may, in some ways, be unable to meet the current level of travelers’ needs. In this era of digital marketing, China and its leaders will need to work together to think about promoting domestic travel and explore ways to optimize the image of local tourism.

Mr. Su Tong mentioned that searching for diverse cultures and discovering “different-selves” is the current travel trend, but in addition to this awakening of consumers’ self-awareness, their needs have become more refined and individualized, as well. For example, both young people and the middle class have different purposes for travel. In the context of urbanization, young people lack the understanding and recognition of traditional regional cultures. While they’re embracing multiculturalism, they’re also eager to find out who they truly are. They hope and expect to find their genuine identity through travel. As for the middle class, the pressure of work drives them to seek a balance between life and work, and traveling is an important way to find that sense of harmony. Therefore, experiencing local culture and unique lifestyles is at the top of  their list, but mainly because they hope to incorporate that travel wisdom in their daily lives.

In recent years, the popularity of domestic scenic spots has been declining, and outbound tourism has become increasingly attractive. This is due in large party to the homogenization of domestic scenic spots. When the style of ancient towns and flagstone roads are similar, tourist destinations no longer have exclusive cultural symbols, which naturally brings travelers “aesthetic fatigue” and a lack of enthusiasm. Reinvigorating scenic spots and reshaping the humanistic image of the destination not only requires renovation of its facilities, but also major work to reveal the unique cultural charm, which comes directly from a traveler’s experience of the people, nature, and culture.

As he brought his presentation to a close, Mr. Su Tong quoted from the book, “To the Brightness that Blinds Me”(《近在远方): "The world doesn't have real, far away places. Every far away place for you is the hometown of others." This mentality shouldn’t solely stand as the youths’ perspective on travel, but the ethos of the entire tourism industry.


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