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Tour guide captivates visitors with Shaanxi charm

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-11 06:50
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Zhang with a group of young visitors to the museum in Xi'an.

The turning point for him came in 2019 when he started making short videos to introduce the history and culture of Xi'an. More people began to appreciate his charm.

Cen Yanhua, a tourist from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, still remembers Zhang's distinctive Shaanxi accent during his trip in 2020. "We toured the city with him as a guide and experienced the charm of the Shaanxi dialect," Cen says, adding that Zhang even taught him to recite Tang poems in the dialect. "I read about how Tang poetry should be recited in the dialect to be more rhythmic and authentic."

The popular tour guide now takes three groups a day, each group consisting of 60 tourists. He owes it to the rising popularity of Xi'an and says that the profound history and culture of the city, as well as the presentation of Tang Dynasty elements in art performances and exhibitions, have made the city a hot spot among travelers.

During the May Day holiday, the city received 14 million tourists, an increase of 5.38 percent year-on-year, up 23.74 percent compared to the same period in 2019, before the pandemic. The total tourist expenditure reached 11.5 billion yuan ($1.59 billion), an increase of 6.72 percent year-on-year, up 38.3 percent from 2019.

Without expecting to become something of a celebrity but somehow becoming one, he wanted to do more meaningful things for his home. In his spare time, Zhang has obtained certificates as an all-media operator and a network host, promoting the sales of local specialties, such as dates, pomegranates and noodles. He has taken various opportunities to promote Xi'an, including attending entertainment shows by China Central Television. He was also named an ambassador of poverty alleviation by the Shaanxi provincial committee of the Communist Youth League in 2020.

More tourists are willing to pay higher fees for better services, which has paved the way for the rise of celebrity tour guides like Zhang, according to some experts. "These tour guides are adept at capturing the trends from internet channels and incorporating them into their services. Many of them have rich experiences and are good at delivering professional knowledge," says Yu Jun, a tourism management lecturer with Jiangsu-based Global Institute of Software Technology.

Zhang says having different tourists every day brings him a sense of freshness. "My dream is simple — to tell the stories of my hometown, spread the history and culture of Shaanxi, and make more people fall in love with the Terracotta Warriors and the province," he says.

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