In east China's Zhejiang Province, Wuzhen, a river town known for its exquisite beauty and unique culture, launched a real-name online reservation system about a month and a half ago.
Yao Jie, the assistant to the president of Zhejiang Wuzhen Tourism Co. Ltd., checks the latest online booking figures and arranges plans for the upcoming "Dragon Boat Festival" holiday when tourists with reservations will visit Wuzhen.
"I feel that online reservation truly brought some big changes to the tourism industry," said Yao, who has worked in the tourism industry for more than 10 years.
Located in the Yangtze River Delta, tourists from the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and the financial hub Shanghai are the main sources of visitors to the water town. This scenic spot, which covers less than seven square km in area, received more than 10 million visitors in 2017.
"On weekends, the narrow stone lanes in Wuzhen used to be crowded with people," said Yao. "A large number of visitors have generated a lot of pressure and created some problems both for the scenic spot as well as for the tourists. But online reservation alleviated the stress to some extent."
Online reservation is not new to the tourism sector. In recent years, Chinese tourism authorities have encouraged the use of online reservation mode. But in the context of COVID-19 prevention and control, the system became particularly important.
By the end of May, more than 90 percent of China's scenic spots had launched online booking services, with 14 percent going completely online and canceling on-the-spot ticket sales, according to Trip.com Group.
China's tourist attractions adopted online reservation on a large scale during the May Day holiday.
Through online reservations, many visitors have noticed a change: what used to be "people mountain people sea" (a popular Chinese colloquial expression describing swarms of people) was replaced by "mountains and sea of flowers."
According to a survey by China Tourism Academy, the overall satisfaction of tourists reached 84.8 percent during the May Day holiday, and 77.4 percent of tourists made online reservations to visit scenic spots. Of them, 74.1 percent deemed the online reservation experience "very good".
Wu Liyun, an associate professor at China Academy of Culture and Tourism under Beijing International Studies University, said that online reservation not only helps scenic spots strengthen management, but also helps them accelerate smart management.
Advance-booking helps avoid excessive visitor flows and the damage inflicted upon scenic spots, especially those that center on cultural heritage and the environment, or those that are difficult to manage, according to Wu.
Some experts believe that technically it is not difficult to establish and improve the online reservation platform. More importantly, it is necessary to cultivate the habit of online booking among tourists.
Some tourist attractions are working with online travel agencies to implement the online reservation system by combining online booking systems with ticket purchases, entry, tours, and after-sale services.
Online booking will emerge as a significant part of China's tourism industry, according to Yu Xiaojiang, with Trip.com Group.