Chinese youngsters embrace more diversified tourism options

By Chen Shengwei, Yuan Yueming, Wang Ying (Xinhua) 08:13, May 20, 2024

BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- As neo-Chinese style tourism, county tourism, and cultural and immersive experiences have become new keywords of holiday travel for Chinese tourists, tourist destinations are striving to develop diverse tourism products and improve their services.

Fueled by young people's passion for traditional culture, tourism activities like Hanfu photography and immersive cultural performances have surged in popularity. It's also been trendy for Chinese tourists to head to lesser-known counties to get a short break from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

China's tourism market is upgrading and becoming a strong source of economic growth. During the five-day May Day holiday this year, domestic tourist expenditures in China amounted to 166.89 billion yuan (about 23.5 billion U.S. dollars), up 12.7 percent from the same period in 2023. In 2024, Chinese tourists are estimated to make more than 6 billion trips across the country.

Tourists in traditional costumes pose for a group photo at Pingyao Ancient Town in Jinzhong City, north China's Shanxi Province, May 14, 2024. (Xinhua/Zhan Yan)


In east China's Jiangsu Province, the Pingjiang Road historical and cultural block in Suzhou bustles with visitors even in the off season.

Many people's top-to-do lists include tasting a cup of tea while watching a Suzhou Pingtan musical performance in the local dialect or taking pictures in traditional Chinese Hanfu clothing.

In a traditional clothing store on Pingjiang Road, a group of young ladies are busy selecting neo-Chinese-style clothes. The sales volume of Cheongsam, waistcoats, and horse-face skirts has seen a dramatic rise this year, which shows the integration of traditional culture and clothing into Chinese people's daily lives, said Zhou Liyan, owner of the store.

Tourists visit Pingjiang Road historical and cultural block in the city of Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, April 18, 2024. (Xinhua/Li Bo)

A growing number of young Chinese are trying to enjoy their travel journey while pursuing traditional culture. "Neo-Chinese style tourism" has ushered in a boom in this May Day holiday, characterized by new cultural travel experiences such as ancient town tours, intangible cultural heritage exploration, museum exhibition trips, etc.

Data from Tongcheng Travel shows that the booking of tourist spots like museums and ancient towns saw a four-times increase year on year during the five-day holiday.

Experts hold that there is no explicit definition of "neo-Chinese style tourism," which should integrate traditional Chinese elements with modern tourism. However, many believe that the youngsters' zeal for traditional Chinese culture will give new development impetus to more tourism market segments.

Tourists enjoy leisure time at a rural cultural tourism spot in Anji County, east China's Zhejiang Province, April 9, 2024. (Xinhua/Weng Xinyang)


During this May Day holiday, Liu Shibin and his family from northeast China's Jilin Province traveled to the neighboring Liaoning Province only for an "idle" vacation in Changhai County of Dalian City. They enjoyed clam digging, fishing, and cozy breezes from the ocean there.

"We wanted to temporarily escape the fast-paced urban life and spend the five days on the island at leisure," said Liu. Changhai County, which consists of five main islets, received some 25,000 island visitors during the May Day holiday, up 43.8 percent from the same period in 2019.

Since the beginning of this year, China's domestic tourism market has been steadily recovering. Some third- and fourth-tier cities and counties with unique cultures and natural landscapes have been well-received, as they are often highly cost-effective in terms of tourist spending compared with traditional popular sites in big cities.

County tourism has become the new darling of Chinese tourists, particularly young ones.

Data from China's leading travel platform, Ctrip, shows that during this May Day holiday, the year-on-year growth rate of travel orders in county-level markets surpassed that of third- and fourth-tier cities, while the latter's growth rates were higher than those of first- and second-tier cities.

Qin Jing, vice president of Ctrip Group, attributed the county tourism fever to the public's shift towards more rational tourism expenditures and an increasing focus on their pursuit of comfortable experiences.

Tourists visit Qingzhou Museum in Qingzhou, east China's Shandong Province, May 17, 2024. (Photo by Wang Jilin/Xinhua)

During the May Day holiday, Anji County in east China's Zhejiang Province, known for its picturesque rivers and mountains, experienced a surge in tourism, with an influx of over 1.67 million visitors. A local coffee shop in Anji County served more than 7,940 cups of coffee in a mere day.

"Small counties offer a slow pace of life, allowing visitors to deeply experience the local customs and culture," said Yang Tianming, a tourist from south China's Guangzhou.

Yang added that nowadays, many of his friends are no longer solely interested in household names when picking their holiday destinations. "Instead, they prioritize the enjoyable experiences when traveling."

China's increasingly improved traffic network, including high-speed railways, aviation, highways, and other infrastructure, ensures the accessibility of once-sleepy counties and is a key booster for the holiday tourism boom.

Currently, China's railway services cover 81 percent of the country's counties, and its bullet trains can reach 93 percent of the cities, each with a population of more than 500,000.

"The popularity of county tourism is on the rise as the local infrastructure continues to improve. This satisfies the travelers' desire for a leisurely vacation, while also offering unique experiencing activities that blend with the local cultures," Liu Yang, chief commercial officer of Tujia, a Chinese homestay booking platform.

The counties are embracing new forms of tourism, from enhancing the quality of tourism infrastructure such as scenic spots and hotels, to offering diversified characteristic activities such as camping and music festivals.

Since December 2023, a total of 127 4A-level scenic spots have been added in 10 provincial-level regions across China, 65 percent of which are distributed in counties and county-level cities. Since the beginning of this year, Ctrip alone has added approximately 1,000 scenic spots in the counties.

Actors perform at an immersive theater in Zhongmu County, central China's Henan Province, Nov. 16, 2023. (Xinhua/Lu Peng)


As the aroma of wheat spreads across fields on the outskirts of Zhengzhou, the capital of central China's Henan Province, Zhu Yaru begins her sightseeing at "Unique Henan: Land of Dramas," a gigantic immersive theater complex in Zhongmu County. The site comprises 21 theaters, performing various shows themed on Henan's history and the Yellow River's culture.

"While watching the plays about Su Shi, an influenced poet in Chinese history, I felt like I was not watching some actors but talking to Su Shi and experiencing his life. That's amazing," Zhu said.

During this year's May Day holiday, this place has become a big hit in the tourism market. "A total of over 500,000 tourists came to enjoy the performances at the Land of Dramas, and the overall comprehensive income increased by 40 percent year on year," said Liu Kaipeng, head of the brand department of Henan Jianye Cultural and Tourism Marketing Center, adding that in 2023 alone, the Land of Dramas received more than 12 million visitors including foreigners from over 40 countries around the globe.

Tourists watch a performance at the "Twelve Hours of Chang'an" theme block in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, May 12, 2024. (Xinhua/Li Yibo)

Nowadays, immersive experience has become a buzzword in China's cultural and tourism industry, captivating travelers nationwide and worldwide.

In Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the "Twelve Hours of Chang'an" theme block vividly reproduces the urban life of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In Kaifeng City of Henan Province, people can travel back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) in the Millennium City Park. Also, in Lijiang City, southwest China's Yunnan Province, the large-scale live drama "Impression Lijiang" leads the audience to truly dedicate themselves to the lives of various ethnic minorities during the cultural show.

"With the continuous upgrading of tourism consumption demand in China, tourists are no longer satisfied with a mere viewing mode. They long for deep participation and emotional connections with scenic spots," said Xiao Jianyong, deputy head of Henan Cultural Tourism Research Institute, adding that the immersive experience has also enhanced the sense of participation of tourists by incorporating more cultural elements.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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