Beijing by Julie Avery
Hello from Beijing (or Ni Hao, as they say in China)
In November 2006, I attended an offshore Travelscene American Express (TSAX) conference. TSAX is our Franchise/Buying Group and the conference gave my business partner, Keiran Cromie, and myself the opportunity of hearing some inspiring International speakers, see a little bit of what Beijing has to offer, and discuss the future of the Travel Industry with over 300 of our peers from around Australia.
Beijing is the nation’s capital. It’s an amazing city, the sheer scale of it, with a population of 13 million people and 2,000 new cars taking to the streets each day. There are approx 10 million bicycles in Beijing, and it’s the main means of transport for many. China leads the world in bicycle production, exporting to over 100 countries.
With temperatures below zero in winter, the power generators for heating, and manufacturing in the city centre, a pollution problem is created which results in a constant haze lying over the city.
There is construction going on everywhere. The buildings have lots of character and are somewhat different in architecture, so the city does not look like a concrete jungle. Many streets are very wide, at least 4-6 lanes, and the avenues as they call them are tree lined with Paris-like lamps, so in the evening you have the feeling that you are on the Champs Elysees. However, there are no traffic rules, no one gives an inch, and cars take priority over bikes and pedestrians !
We did experience the underground subway system, and that was fairly easy to use although very few speak English, so you need a good map and lots of patience. The taxi drivers also don’t speak English. A new rail system is currently under construction to cope with the August 2008 Olympic Games. The main Olympic stadium is located approximately 40 minutes drive from the city centre, and local cars will be banned from the roads during that period. Beijing will be ready for the Games in 2008.
Beijing is a very clean city, and everyone works, even if it is just sweeping the streets with straw brooms. There is no graffiti, probably because as I said everyone is busy working !
The "must dos" in Beijing are;
Tiananmen Square, is the biggest central square in the world and scene of the 1989 massacre, 1 million people each year still gather in the square on 1st May - Labour day and 1st October - National Day. These dates coincide with a week long holiday in Beijing. Connected to the Square is Forbidden City, the largest preserved palace in the world. A short distance from Beijing is the Summer Palace, also grand in size with its own lake and of course there is the Great Wall. You can walk various parts of it, with the walks ranging in length from 1 hour to 5 hours, depending on your stamina. Shopping in Beijing is still very good for buying clothing, shoes, sportswear, jade, silks, paintings, scrolls and crafts. There are many indoor and outdoor markets ( you should pay no more than 25% of the original stated price) as well as all the international designer shops and department stores. The main shopping street is Wandfujing Street.... a short walk from Tiananmen Square.
The best months to visit China are their Spring and Autumn, April/May and September/October. Beijing, Xian and Shanghai are in the triangle of the most popular cities to visit for a 10 day holiday. Many of our clients include the mighty Yangtze River, the longest river in China, to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the three gorges, and they return with glowing reports of this unique experience.
In regards to the conference, as individual owners, the networking with other owners was invaluable, with everyone being very generous in sharing ideas and their success stories. Often we discussed what works for our customers - you, and how we can stay relevant in these changing times.
The conference theme was 'Changing the Future' so it was interesting and thought provoking to hear from speakers on; 'Blue Ocean Strategies', 'Staying Profitable', 'Maximizing Global Airline Strategies', and the most outstanding for me was Terry Hawkins talking on 'Human Performance' - if all else fails, "Just do Happy".
I hope this gives you some insight into the nature of our industry. We honestly believe that the value proposition we bring to you is that we can provide a level of Travel Service which is professional, well researched, knowledgeable, and delivered by a team dedicated to ensuring that your holiday experience is outstanding.