Developing Tourism on the Maritime Silk Road in Fuzhou

 

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Two tourists explore Fuzhou’s historic ‘3 Lanes and 7 Alleys’ district.  (Photo: Cecile Zehnacker/ China Pictorial).

 

By Duncan Gordon

The launch ceremony of the 2nd Maritime Silk Road (Fuzhou) International Tourism Festival was held on a beautiful November day, in Fuzhou’s slick Cangshan district.  The cutting-edge Fuzhou Strait International Conference & Exhibition Center welcomed salespeople, representatives from tour agencies from over 25 countries, and Chinese and international media.  The aim of the festival was to create a new platform for regional tourism cooperation and explore new ways for cities along the Maritime Silk Road to cooperate on tourism.

Fuzhou sits on the lower Min River, a short journey inland from China’s southeast coast, in northeast Fujian province.  The provincial government’s tourism slogan “Refreshing Fujian” is certainly apt for this part of the country.  A fresh sea breeze comes in off the Taiwan Strait, breathing life into the region’s lush green hills. 

Huang Qiyu, the Vice Governor of Fujian province, talked passionately to the audience about Fuzhou’s abundance of natural and cultural tourism resources, before outlining the general situation of the tourism industry in Fuzhou. 

Fuzhou received 2,120,000 travellers in the first three-quarters of 2016.  Huang puts this down in large part to the central government’s decision to develop Fuzhou as a hub along the Maritime Silk Road. 

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A song and dance performance of ‘Maritime Silk Road’ at the launch ceremony of the 2nd Maritime Silk Road (Fuzhou) International Tourism Festival, Nov. 13, 2016.  (Photo: Cecile Zehnacker/ China Pictorial).

 

Huang stressed that “economic development in the city is booming, which is an opportunity for win-win cooperation that must be seized.”

Huang emphasised that the 2nd Maritime Silk Road (Fuzhou) International Tourism Festival is a fantastic opportunity for different cities and countries along the Maritime Silk Road to learn from each other in order to better develop their tourism industries and economies as a whole.

President Xi Jinping’s 2013 announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative led to great opportunities for cities, provinces, and countries along the two roads in 2014/15, including the development of world-leading tourism programmes.

Cai Jiacheng, the Director of the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) Information Center, stated that tourism is a key pillar of China’s economy in 2016 and he highlighted the importance of the 2nd Maritime Silk Road (Fuzhou) International Tourism Festival as a chance for countries and regions along the road to promote their tourism industries to each other.

The Maritime Silk Road has a long history.  From the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) onwards traders from far-flung parts of the globe came to buy Chinese goods, including silk, tea and china.  The ancient trade routes that they used are being revived by the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Economic Belt, which seeks to foster collaboration and increase investment in the countries along the routes.

The 9+9 International Tourism City Cooperation Alliance was established at the 2nd Maritime Silk Road (Fuzhou) International Tourism Festival launch ceremony.  Nine representatives from Chinese cities and nine representatives from international cities signed the framework agreement for co-developing their tourism industries.

 

Natural and Cultural Heritage

Fuzhou is sometimes called “The Banyan City” due to the abundance of banyan trees along its streets.  The trees’ trunks twist skyward from the pavement and the roots of the trees’ germinated fruit hang down over the city’s sidewalks, making some streets look as if they are part of a living system.

The Three Lanes and Seven Alleys area of Fuzhou is a brilliantly preserved residential neighbourhood from the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.  The delicately tiled and white-painted homes themselves are younger, from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dynasties.  This compact district is the birthplace of many famous poets, writers and generals.  While wandering around this picturesque neighbourhood tourists can enjoy trying local specialities such as yu wan (fish balls) and bian rou yan (fried meat dumplings).

The 7th Fuzhou Hot Spring International Tourism Festival opened at Xishan Leisure Tourism Resort in Gui’an, Lianjiang County, on November 14.  Known as “China’s capital of hot springs”, Lianjiang has over 1,700 years of hot springs tourism history and possesses some of the best quality hot spring resorts in the country.  With over 50 pools to choose from at Xishan, visitors can immerse themselves in the natural environment and gaze up at the stars as they relax and unwind.

The Mayor of Lianjiang County, Zheng Limin, notes that hot spring tourism is one of the most dynamic industries in the county.  International cultural exchanges like the 7th Fuzhou Hot Spring International Tourism Festival can contribute greatly to the development of the province, Zheng said.

The Festival was inaugurated by representatives from both Chinese and international tour agencies.

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Residents of Songkou Town, Yongtai County, take part in a cultural performance to welcome attendees of the 1st Fuzhou Folk Tourism Festival, Nov. 15, 2016.  (Photo: Cecile Zehnacker/ China Pictorial).

 

Another side to Fuzhou’s burgeoning tourism industry is folk tourism.  Fuzhou has a unique and vibrant historical culture with which to attract both domestic and international tourists.

The 1st Fuzhou Folk Tourism Festival was held in Songkou Town, Yongtai County, on November 15.

As well as exploring unique Longkou architecture, visitors to Songkou Town can also see live performances of Min opera in the open air.  Also known as Fuzhou opera, it is the only surviving opera performed in the Fuzhou dialect.

Boasting natural and cultural tourist resources such as these, Fuzhou is in a position to attract high numbers of international and Chinese tourists and shine as an example for other Maritime Silk Road cities to follow.

 

Wisdom Tourism

The 2nd Wisdom Tourism Peak Forum, held on November 13, focused on the ever-increasing importance of technology in the tourism industry and the potential opportunities this brings to Fuzhou and other cities on the Maritime Silk Road.

The topic of a cloud service platform of infrastructure and services for public use came up in discussion at the forum.  Zhou Mingli, Vice Director of Ningbo Municipal Tourism Bureau, said that it was important for tourists to be able to access information during their trip.  A cloud data system allows the local government in Ningbo to monitor visitor traffic at scenic spots such as the Tianfeng Pagoda.  Tourists can download an app and access this information instantly to help them better plan their trip.

Representatives from the tourism administrations of five Chinese cities discussed this and other ideas relating to smart tourism, or wisdom tourism, in an effort to learn from each other’s successes.

Plenty to offer

Local tour guide Lin Mei Ling said that the best thing Fuzhou has to offer visitors is fresh air.  Fresh air, combined with fantastic tourism resources and an intelligent tourism development strategy, will allow this city to thrive.  In turn, other cities and countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road can follow the example of Fuzhou’s development.

 

 

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