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Cultural Tourism Boosts Economic Rebound

2023-02-28 11:17:00 Source:China Today Author:staff reporter ZHOU LIN
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Cultural tourism bounces back in China during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, showing China’s strong economic resilience.


Tourists are watching the firework show of “A Spring Festival Spectacular” at Shanghai Disney Resort on January 30, 2023. 

During the seven-day Chinese New Year holiday, the Universal Beijing Resort, located in Beijing’s sub-center Tongzhou District, was packed with tourists. Five traditional Chinese red lanterns decorated with paper-cut movie characters hanging under the entrance arch added to the festive ambiance. Throughout the theme park, decorations of the Chinese New Year could be seen everywhere – the lovely rabbit of the Chinese zodiac, festive lanterns, couplets of the Spring Festival, and colorful flags with paper-cut patterns.

“Everyone has been looking forward to the day that everything would get back to normal,” said Zhou Huilin, a Shanghai resident who came to Beijing for a family reunion. The Universal Beijing Resort attracted numerous visitors like her with its “Universal’s Chinese New Year” – the first seasonal theme activity for 2023. Since the Chinese government optimized its COVID-19 response to minimize the pandemic’s impact on people’s life, many people have chosen to travel with their family for celebrations.

Joe Hoskin, executive vice president & general manager of Universal Beijing Resort, with two dancing lions and symbols of the passing year of the tiger and the incoming year of the rabbit at the celebration of the “Universal’s Chinese New Year” on January 11, 2023.

Good Old Days Back

Universal Beijing Resort, the third Universal Studios theme park in Asia and the fifth in the world, opened in September 2021. Since then, it has continued to explore creative ways of integrating local culture with its global identity in order to create an immersive entertainment experience for consumers.

Greeting tourists at the end of the Hollywood Boulevard is a blooming peach tree specially placed there for the Chinese New Year. Under the tree, the rabbit character Wo Hop from the Kung Fu Panda was sending its best wishes to every passerby.

The performance that attracted the largest audience was the Spring Blessing Show staged on the Hollywood Boulevard. The festivities built up to a rousing climax with the debut of two dancing lions. Greeting the crowd with cute blinking eyes and merry jumps, the dancing lions attracted numbers of tourists to take photos and keep the joyous moments. “I am excited to see that we have finally got back to normal life,” said Zhou.

With regard to the design of the two dancing lions for the show, Wang Yikai, artistic director of the entertainment team of the Universal Beijing Resort, said that the inspiration came from a combination of Art Deco – an artistic style popular among the middle class in Europe and the United States – and traditional Chinese patterns. It was an effort to present the beauty of Chinese culture with flair of international popular art. “What the lions convey is Chinese and also international, an experience exclusive to the Universal Beijing Resort,” said Wang.

“We came early in the morning to avoid waiting in long queues. Otherwise, you have to wait about over an hour and half in a queue to take the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride,” Zhou said. She had been to the Universal Studios Japan in Osaka and also the Shanghai Disney Resort a couple of times previously, and this time, she was looking forward to a new experience in Beijing during the Chinese New Year.

Zhou Huilin visits the Shanghai Disneyland Park.

A Global Festivity

In Shanghai Disneyland Park – the first Disney theme park in Chinese mainland, classic Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and their friends also welcomed visitors dressed up in Chinese-style clothes. Celebratory activities, such as a drum beating ceremony, Shanghai swing dance, and prayers for the Chinese New Year, were performed. Judy Hopps, a rabbit police officer in animation film Zootopia, was taking photos with tourists in folk costumes for the Year of the Rabbit. Zhou shared with China Today the photos of her colleagues in Shanghai. “On the first day of the Chinese New Year, a lively and joyous lion awakening ceremony was also performed there to send best wishes to tourists,” Zhou said.

“The Spring Festival is very important in Chinese traditional culture. We created the Universal’s Chinese New Year theme in a special way that blends the Chinese elements with Universal Studio’s main characters, hoping to present unique festival activities in the theme park and make it part of the Chinese New Year celebrations,” said Joe Hoskin, executive vice president & general manager of Universal Beijing Resort. He also pointed out that since the beginning of 2023, the number of tourists to the theme park has been on the rise.

The Chinese New Year has been gaining popularity among people all over the world. It is now common for Chinese communities to watch dragon and lion dances with local people in Chinatowns overseas. People sit together and enjoy traditional Chinese dishes, dress up in Chinese Tang costumes, and take photos of performances with Chinese characteristics, experiencing the unique charm of Chinese culture.

To create a unique Universal’s Chinese New Year experience, Hoskin’s team has carefully studied the needs of Chinese consumers. “They want an authentic Chinese New Year, and also something special that can give them an immersive entertainment experience in which they can interact with the Universal’s main characters,” he said.

The rabbit character Wo Hop from the Kung Fu Panda dressed up in traditional Chinese costumes is sending its best wishes to every passerby. Dong Ning 

Recovery of Cultural Tourism

The tourism boom during the first Spring Festival holiday since China optimized its COVID-19 response is indicative of the resilience of the Chinese economy. According to statistics released by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism on January 27 this year, domestic tourist trips over the Chinese New Year holiday in 2023 reached 308 million, a year-on-year increase of 23.1 percent, reaching 88.6 percent of the figure for the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.

LY.COM, a leading online travel agency, released a report on tourist consumption during the 2023 Spring Festival holiday. The report showed that Shaanxi, Henan, and Shandong had been listed as hot destinations in winter in addition to Hainan and Yunnan during this year’s Spring Festival holiday. Travelers chose various forms of cultural tourism from city tours to visits to scenic spots, theme parks, museums, Spring Festival fairs, and activities exhibiting intangible cultural heritage.

Guo Wenjie, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Commerce Bureau, shared some inspiring news at the press conference of the first session of the 16th Beijing Municipal People’s Congress on January 16, 2023. He said that new consumption landmarks in Beijing have shown its vitality and potential in boosting consumption. For example, over the first year after its opening, the Universal Beijing Resort received more than 13 million visitors.

There has been a significant rise of ticket booking for the Universal Beijing Resort since December 2022, with peak passenger flow on Christmas day and New Year’s Day, and during the Spring Festival holiday. On its official App, visitors can see notifications that they will have to wait for an average of around 40 to 60 minutes in queues for entertainment rides, close to the summer peak.

Tourism figures in Shanghai are also soul-stirring. More than 10 million tourists visited the metropolitan city during this Spring Festival holiday, creating RMB 16.64 billion in tourism revenue. The local government issued the Shanghai Action Plan for Boosting Consumer Confidence and Demand, Stabilizing Growth, and Promoting Development on January 29, rolling out 10 actions and 32 new policies to stimulate economic growth. The document clearly states that Shanghai will fully activate the cultural and tourism market. For the purpose, it will host major festive activities and exhibitions, such as the Citizen’s Culture Festival, Touring Shanghai Arts Festival, and the second Shanghai Tourism Investment Promotion Conference. The city will make full use of special funds for cultural and creative industries, tourism, and sports, and offer residents with vouchers to boost consumption in cultural tourism, catering, and retail sectors.

“We are more confident than ever before. Cultural tourism is recovering, and our original objective remains unaltered. As a leader in theme park operators, we will continue to present wonderful and legendary experiences to tourists at this vital moment,” said Hoskin.

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