Port city banking on tourism
Two stewards stand by a CRH (China Railway High-speed) bullet train at Zhanjiangxi railway station in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. [Photo by Wu Weihong/For China Daily]
Zhanjiang set to ride on new transport links, development
Tourist arrivals in Zhanjiang, a major port in China's southern Guangdong province, is set to surge this year on the back of a new high-speed railway station which will begin operating by June, a senior city official said.
"We have jaw-dropping coastlines, tasty seafood, a scenic lake formed out of volcanic eruptions, and many other beautiful sites ... we have every reason to believe the city will become a major attraction in South China," said Peng Hui, head of the Zhanjiang Tourism Bureau.
The city has struggled to attract visitors mainly due to its transport network, but the new high-speed rail linking Shenzhen, one of the most developed areas in southern China, and the construction of a Zhanjiang-based international airport, will help plug the gap, said Peng.
"We are also planning a coastal route, just like California's State Route 1 in the United States, for both commuting and sightseeing."
Peng added the upcoming travel boom will likely embrace features of industrial tourism - which counts factories and work heritage sites among its top destinations, similar to French wine tours and Netherland's cheesemaking visits - that has received renewed interest in recent times.
"Baosteel, one of China's largest steel manufacturing groups, has set up branches in Zhanjiang and many other companies in the sector are emerging. Industrial tourism in Zhanjiang is looking very promising," said Peng, adding that the government is working with local companies to help develop the sector.
"We are planning more road signs starting from the new railway station, and training professionals in the travel sector," she said.
"There are certainly challenges in developing local tourism," said Peng. "Take the road signs - few local residents thought those were necessary, as they already know the area well."
Still, signs of a potential travel boom for Zhanjiang in the near future are firmly in place - last year, the number of tourists grew by 15 percent year-on-year while the number of travel agencies rose by 51 percent in the same period, she said.
Of the many tourists who celebrate the traditional Spring Festival family reunions at popular island getaways in nearby Hainan province, 74 percent of them also chose to spend a night or two in Zhanjiang, said Peng.
"That means the city is growing to become another major travel destination."