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Zhouzhuang sets out blueprint to boost visitor numbers

(chinadaily.com.cn)

Zhouzhuang sets out blueprint to boost visitor numbers

Zhouzhuang, an ancient town in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, dubbed "China’s No.1 Water Town". [Photo/Zhouzhuang.net]

Seeing 211,400 visitors, up 9.19 percent during this year's Spring Festival, Zhouzhuang in Suzhou, Jiangsu province has become a popular scenic spot in the country with its distinctive cultural tourism, and is making efforts to further improve its popularity in a year seen as being full of challenges as well as opportunities.

Build tourism brand

The Yangtze River Delta features a large number of water towns, each with its own distinctive characteristics, and each competing for a share of the growing tourist market.

"It is of great significance to develop one's own culture characteristics to survive the homogeneous competition," said Zhao Kunyuan, Zhouzhuang Party secretary. In recent times, town has enjoyed a worldwide reputation as "China's No.1 Water Town" after years of development.

Zhouzhuang sets out blueprint to boost visitor numbers

Zhouzhuang featured in New York Times' "52 places to go in 2015" list in January, 2015. [Photo/Zhouzhuang.net]

In July 2015, Zhouzhuang and the city of Venice in Italy held a joint tourism promotion event named "A Tale of Two Cities", named after the novel by Charles Dickens, where both cities agreed to produce a short film entitled "The Twins' Love". Zhouzhuang is also the only ancient town in China to make it onto the American broadcaster CNN's list of "World's Top 10 Most Beautiful Towns", and to enter the New York Times' "52 places to go in 2015".

Zhouzhuang's success comes not just from its beauty but also from the entrepreneurship of its residents. Ticket sales hit 100 million yuan ($15.44 million) and non-ticket income reached 80 million yuan in 2015. However, local residents pulled in a whopping one billion yuan last year from hotels and restaurants as well as cultural activities and tourism-related sales and services.

The local government has been doing its best to keep pushing for more growth, increasing versatility in the sector by adding more experiences for visitors such as B&Bs and innovative cultural shops.

Improve tourism service

Shanghai Disneyland is set to open in June this year and is expected to cause knock-on effects around the Yangtze Delta River. In 2010, the Shanghai World Expo opened-up a variety of tourism opportunities and subsequent products were rolled out doubling visitor numbers that year. On the downside a lot of problems occurred as hotels were pushed to their limits by the surge in guests.

Disneyland is expected to control its number of visitors every day, with average stays in the area estimated at around four days. The Zhouzhuang Tourism Company has started promotion work to seek for strategic cooperation with Disneyland in the form being a possible ticket agent.

Zhouzhuang sets out blueprint to boost visitor numbers

The homestay industry has enjoyed rapid growth in Zhouzhuang with many and various B&Bs popping up in recent times. [Photo/Zhouzhuang.net]

Besides grabbing the market opportunity, the town is improving its infrastructure to boost its tourism service quality. Several years of development has resulted in rapid growth for the local homestay industry, with more and more B&Bs popping up in the area, as well as the region's first five-star hotel set to open this year. Other infrastructure improvements, environmental protection and traffic upgrades on the way as well.

Rural resource developing

Zhouzhuang sets out blueprint to boost visitor numbers

The Qi village in Zhouzhuang was developed into a rural tourist resort in late 2015 and exudes resplendent natural scenery and an authentic countryside experience. [Photo/Zhouzhuang.net]

The Qi village in Zhouzhuang has been developed into a rural tourist resort since late 2015 providing resplendent natural scenery and a unique countryside experience. Rural tourism is increasingly popular nowadays and has contributed greatly to the expansion of the town's tourism revenue.

The core region of Zhouzhuang ancient town covers less than 0.5 square kilometers and requires tourism space expansion urgently. In the future, the cultural tourism in town and the ecological tourism in village will be expanded and serve as two distinctive brands forming the mature tourism landscape of Zhouzhuang.