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Sightseeing, sports, culture create tourism trend

China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-22 09:39
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A tourist feeds a seagull in Kunming, Yunnan province, in October. LIU RANYANG/CHINA NEWS SERVICE

BOAO, Hainan — As tourists embrace winter sports amid the icy weather of North China, in the southernmost island province of Hainan, travelers have been invited to ride the waves in sunny coastal towns.

Various regions in China offer a diverse array of tourism options, but a shared trend has emerged — a growing number of Chinese tourists now prefer travel experiences that blend sightseeing, sports and culture.

In recent years, Chen Yan, a tourist from Beijing, has prioritized outdoor activities during his holidays in Hainan, which he visits most years.

"Surfing and kayaking create a strong connection with the sea, and cycling in the mountains in central Hainan allows a unique experience of tropical rainforests and ethnic cultures," said Chen, adding that immersive outdoor activities offer him a close encounter with nature.

According to a recent report on the development of the outdoor sports industry in China, outdoor activities such as winter sports, road running, cycling and off-roading have seen explosive growth in 2022 and 2023, with many surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Chinese travel platform Ctrip has said that bookings related to outdoor sports during the first half of 2023 were up 79 percent over the same period in 2022, and 221 percent higher than in the first half of 2019.

At the 2023 Boao Forum for Entrepreneurs held recently in Hainan, Chinese entrepreneurs and experts discussed the rising tendency to integrate sports and culture into China's tourism industry.

"The successful hosting of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics has ignited a surge of enthusiasm during the winter," said Zhao Yinggang, deputy director of the Beijing 2022 Sustainability Advisory Commission.

Zhao said large sporting events have prompted a trend of incorporating physical activities into travel plans and seeking destinations with fitness-friendly amenities.

The hosting of high-level sports competitions has led to a comprehensive improvement in the tourism industry of some cities.

Keqiao district in Shaoxing, East China's Zhejiang province, hosted 25 events during the Hangzhou Asian Games in September, bringing in about 24,000 spectators.

The local government also arranged Asian Games-themed cultural and tourism activities, drawing about 84,000 tourists and generating over 66 million yuan ($9.2 million) in tourism revenue, said Ren Hongliang, an official with the district government of Keqiao.

Beyond internationally acclaimed sports events, various small-scale sports competitions have turned previously little-known places into popular tourist destinations.

The village super league, dubbed "cun chao" by Chinese netizens, gained nationwide fame over the summer as a grassroots soccer tournament organized and played by local villagers in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou province.

The event seamlessly blends the thrill of sports with a vibrant display of authentic Dong ethnic culture. Throughout the match breaks, villagers dressed in traditional ethnic costumes sang folk songs and danced, creating a festive atmosphere.

Cun chao soon went viral and brought substantial economic benefits to Rongjiang. During the tournament, local agricultural product sales reached 401 million yuan and nighttime consumption saw a 362.5 percent year-on-year increase, reaching 309 million yuan.

Across different regions of China, the integrated development of tourism, sports and culture not only provides visitors with memorable experiences, but also serves as an engine for the recovery of the local tourism market and economic development.

"Such an integration displays the charm of culture, the vitality of sports and the allure of tourism," said Wang Zhifa, former deputy director of the China National Tourism Administration, who also suggested the continuous innovation and optimization of tourism products for the public.

In the view of many participants at the Boao forum, providing high-quality tourism products and services constitutes a fundamental cornerstone of a positive brand image, encouraging tourists to prolong their stay.

"It's important to tell good stories about local history and culture, immerse visitors in the local way of life, create trendy scenic spots, and provide a range of complementary tourism offerings to captivate and satisfy tourists," said Zhao.


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