Crisis and Opportunities for the Chinese Hot Springs Industry in Year 2020
Jeff Wang, Vice President, China Hot Spring Tourism Association, Executive Vice Director, Experts Committee of China Hot SpringTourism Association Director, Asia-Pacific Institute for Hydrotherapy and Climatotherapy Tourism.
According to the Chinese lunar calendar, 2020 is the year of the Rat and the year of Gengzi. It is said that there must be some kind of disaster in China in the year of Gengzi. At the beginning of the year, the unprecedented public health crisis happened with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the central city of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. It has generated severe economic and socio-psychological impact on China and even the whole world. Evidently, the hot spring tourism industry of China is estimated to be one of hardest-hit industries.
Major problems and trends:
1. Since late January 2020, more than 3,000 operating hot springs have been closed across China, and the whole industry fell into a state of "shock". By late February, some hot springs began to open gradually "private pool" or hot spring villas and spa rooms, like ‘yuya’ in Japan, which could be used personally, but the public area still remain closed until March. It is estimated that most of public pools should be open by the end of April. Unfortunately, after May Day Holiday, the high season for hot spring tourism will be over. As it is difficult to completely eradicate the epidemic according to experts, and it is likely to return again in the next winter, the whole industry is generally pessimistic about this year's business forecast. I personally predict that the total revenue of China's hot spring tourism industry will drop by 30%-50%, while some hot spring enterprises may shut down. In a word, the key issue for China's hot spring tourism industry in 2020 is "how to survive?".
2. During the outbreak, some hot springs were designated by the government as quarantine hotels for suspected cases, such as in Huangshi City, Hubei Province and in Weihai City, Shandong Province. Since mid- March, hot spring enterprises in some provinces and cities have jointly proposed to provide free accommodation for local medical staff who returned from the frontline of fighting against the epidemic in Hubei Province. For example, Chongqing Hot Spring Tourism Association has organized 7 enterprises to provide 1300 beds for the medical staff, along with a series of wellness service. Led by Rehai Hot Springs in Yunnan Province, hundreds of hot springs across the country have expressed their willingness to provide medical staff with free unlimited hot spring tickets for the whole year.
3. An article (written by a Chinese immunology PHD in the United States) and a video about an interview program attended by a famous doctor of Taiwan) about ‘hot springs bath and taking hot baths can boost immunity’ has been widely noted and discussed. The concept and videos of "hot springs and hot baths boost immunity" quickly spread across the country through social media such as Wechat. China's hot spring community just now are discussing how their enterprises should fight against the epidemic and move toward health tourism under the theme of immunity enhancement. After a decade of deliberation, now they finally came to a conclusion: we must focus on wellness and upgrade the industry towards wellness as soon as possible.
4. As traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has played a huge role against the epidemic, it will be a very important element in the transformation of Chinese hot spring tourism towards health and wellness in the future.
5. In 2020, 2 standards, namely Classification and grading of hot spring health and wellness tourism project, Hygienic standard for tourist hot spring water quality, are expected to be implemented officially. They will largely promote Chinese hot spring tourism into the orientation of wellness.
6. In 2017, the Chinese version of Forest Medicine edited by Dr. Li Qing of Tokyo Medical University was published. He also attends a lot of lectures and exchanges in China every year, and triggers the wave of "forest therapy” and " forest health & wellness”. It is expected that the simplified Chinese version of Dr. Li Qing's forest bathing will be published in the first half of this year (the traditional Chinese version has been released in Taiwan in 2019). Forest bathing will become a healthy fashion activity. Initiated by Dr. Li Qing, hot spring bath + forest bath has become a novel hot spring wellness product in several hot springs in China.
7. Climatotherapy and hot spring will continue to develop in a combined way.
8. Promoted by commercial insurance companies, the combination of hot springs and pension industry will usher in new development in 2020.