The sizzling theme park biz ignites Harbin's icy, icy economy

ZHENG YIRAN in Beijing and TIAN XUEFEI in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-03 09:45

Ski enthusiasts gather at a venue in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, on December 12. [Photo/China Daily]

Major related industry groups drive more tourists to popular winter destinations

Pan Ruiqi and his family recently went on a trip to Harbin in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Despite the very cold weather there, tourists from Beijing skated, shopped and generally had fun during the three-day New Year's holiday.

„We went to the Sino-Baroque History Block in the morning and Harbin Ice and Snow World in the afternoon, where I saw some local souvenirs and special items. I bought some for my friends and relatives back home. I especially liked the hand-drawn postcards,” Pan said.

Harbin's ice and snow economy is growing as the increasing number of travelers show more interest in winter tourism.

With the opening of various ice and snow theme parks, the city has become popular among tourists.

In the two weeks since Harbin Ice and Snow World opened on Dec. 18, the city's popularity in searches on China's travel website Mafengwo soared 300 percent, making it an „internet celebrity” city, data from the online site showed.

According to Harbin Taiping International Airport, on December 20 the airport reached 20 million passengers per year, a record for the Northeast China region.

A report released by online travel company Ctrip has ranked Harbin as the top New Year holiday tourist destination in China this year.

During the three-day holiday period, air and train ticket bookings to Harbin increased by 631 percent year-on-year.

Harbin Airport added 11 domestic routes and operated 463 flights on December 22, carrying 70,000 passengers, setting a record passenger flow.

On Dec. 26, hotel bookings in Harbin for the New Year holiday on Beijing-based online travel agency Qunar rose 2,570 percent year-on-year, while bed and breakfast bookings on homestay platform Dujia rose 2,700 percent.

„Entering the winter peak season, especially after the opening of Harbin Ice and Snow World, our room reservations are full, and the situation will continue until the Spring Festival season,” said Deng Yibo, assistant general manager of Modern Hotel. Harbin.

„Tourist souvenirs are mostly sold out, especially hand-painted postcards. Postcards of various tourist destinations are popular; candies and chocolates from Russia are popular. Shelves are basically empty,” said Meng Fanbo, an employee of a gift shop. Harbin.

Wang Hongxin, head of Harbin's Bureau of Culture, Broadcasting, Television and Tourism, said, „The winter tourism season is very popular in Harbin, and we expect such a 'heat' to last until the end of March.”

In January 2023, the China Tourism Academy released a report on the development of Harbin's snow and ice tourism.

As China has abundant snow and ice resources, Harbin has passed the primary stage of serving human transportation through snow and ice and entered the advanced stage of using snow and ice resources for urban development.

In May 2022, Harbin launched a development plan for its snow and ice economy.

According to the plan, by 2025, the total production value of the city's snow and ice industry should reach 75 billion yuan ($10.5 billion), accounting for a quarter of the province's total industry.

By 2030, it will exceed 150 billion yuan, taking up a third of the province's total.

Huang Dawei, vice president of Harbin's Bureau of Culture, Broadcasting, Television and Tourism, said, „By coordinating the development of four key snow and snow industry clusters — snow and snow sports, snow and snow culture, snow and snow equipment, and snow and snow tourism — the 9th Asian Winter Harbin was successfully awarded the right to host the Games 2025.”

Hong Yong, an associate researcher at the E-Commerce Research Institute of the Ministry of Commerce, said: „Harbin's ice and snow economy is growing, which brings real benefits to local merchants. In order to promote long-term growth in the industry, more favorable policies such as helping merchants lower their winter operating costs and providing marketing platforms will be implemented. It is recommended that the Government provide. .”

Zhou Huiying contributed to this story.

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