300-year-old Phoenix Ancient Town consumed by fire of anger because of new government-imposed entrance charge; “None of the ancient towns in Europe charges an entrance fee. I’d rather go there.”

300-year-old Phoenix Ancient Town consumed by fire of anger because of new government-imposed entrance charge

Alia | April 14th, 2013 – 10:31 pm

Fenghuang Gucheng, or Phoenix Ancient Town in English, has been the center of much online discussion in the past week. The small town, located on the western boundary of Hunan province, can be dated back to Ming and Qing Dynasties. It’s a very popular tourism destination in China due to its outstanding natural beauty, untouched ancient architecture and unique culture of the Miao ethnic minority who live there.

This little small town had a restless week last week when on Thursday, local small business owners took to the street to protest against a newly-imposed “entrance ticket” of RMB 148 yuan, effective on April 10. All of a sudden, pictures of cheng guan officers (China’s city law enforcement officers) and anti-riot police raiding the little town are everywhere on the Chinese internet.


What’s the big deal? In the old days when someone visits Fenghuang, they buy tickets at individual places of interest, or a kind of “all-included” ticket that covers several places of interest. The new 148-yuan entrance ticket, by its names, means that tourists, or anyone who is not a local resident or a direct relative of a local resident, now need to pay 148 yuan to enter the town before anything else. For example, this Friday, a young guy whose family lives in the town took his girlfriend home for a visit, but was stopped by ticket enforcement staff. Why? His girlfriend is a non-local resident and thus needs to pay the 148 entrance fee.

Ticket check point at town entrance

What’s more, since the entrance ticket is imposed by local government, a significant proportion of ticket sales will to go local government than to local business and residents. The justification by local government is that the money will eventually benefit who live or do businesses in the town. Apparently, those who currently live and do businesses in the town don’t agree. Most of them fear that the entrance ticket will scare away tourists and bring down the town’s popularity.

Their concerns are not entirely groundless. April to May is usually the first peak travel season in China due to two consecutive public holidays in Qing Ming (Tomb Sweeping Day) and the May Day holiday. But journalists from Fenghuang reported that during the first weekend after the entrance ticket was effective, many local hotels saw an occupancy rate of 0, compared with 100% in previous years during the same period.


Anti-riot police in town

The deputy county chief of Fenghuang comforted local businesses by saying that those who want to visit the town won’t care about the new entrance fee. In response, netizens on Weibo, China’s leading microblog service, are calling for a boycott of the town. A Weibo  post by netizen 袁裕来律师 that urged netizens not to go to the ancient town during the coming May Day holiday was shared nearly 100,000 times.

Chinese netizens want to use their action to show that they do care about this out-of-nowhere ticket that is not at all cheap. In on online poll by Sina, a whopping 93% of some 90k netizens surveyed said they won’t consider traveling to Fenghuang because of the entrance ticket.

To many, it’s not only about some entrance ticket. Like one netizen 天雨粟 commented: “A tyranny is worse than a tiger.” Many netizens see it as another case where the government is interfering with something that is better left to market. 假装在纽约, popular Weibo celebrity, commented: “New tax on property sales, possible charge on Weixin (WeChat, a popular social app by Tencent) and the Fenghuang’s entrance ticket. They look unrelated, yet they all point to one truth, that is, our government on various levels have become a monster.” This monster, like many netizens pointed out, “knows only about how to squeeze money out of its people.”

This is not the first time when tickets at tourism destinations in China raised public outcry. Last year when the government announced a round of ticket price increase at various famous destinations, there was a similar discussion online. What annoys most netizens is that despite high ticket prices, there seems to be no increase in maintenance or service quality. While Chinese tourists are spending lavishly on foreign lands, the tourism industry in China is yet to find a way to make visitors happy. One netizen 别处谷 spoke of the mind of many: “None of the ancient towns in Europe charges an entrance fee. I’d rather go there.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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