Winter tourism bookings boom in Changchun

Updated: Feb 20, 2024 By Yan Dongjie and Liu Mingtai in Changchun China Daily Print
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Photo taken on Jan 4, 2024, shows participants attending the 22nd Vasaloppet China Changchun Jingyuetan International Ski Festival at Jingyuetan National Scenic Area in Changchun, Jilin province. [Photo by Tian Jiaxin/For China Daily]

While Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, has been the country's most popular destination for ice and snow tourism this winter, neighboring Jilin province has also welcomed more tourists and seen revenue from tourism grow.

As the Spring Festival holiday approached, Changchun, Jilin's provincial capital, saw holiday bookings surge.

More than two weeks before the start of the holiday, online travel platform Group said hotel bookings were up more than 1,000 percent compared to the same period last year, and ticket bookings were up 727 percent.

According to data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Jilin received more than 6 million domestic tourists during the New Year holiday period in January, over four times more than during the same period a year earlier, while tourism revenue was more than six times higher at 5.3 billion yuan ($737 million). Growth rates for both were well above the national average and better than those seen in other northeastern provinces.

On Feb 4, five days before Spring Festival, Zhang Renzhe and his family from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, arrived at the Tian Ding Mountain Tourist Resort on the eastern outskirts of Changchun, where they stayed in a farmhouse with a traditional kang — a heated brick bed — and enjoyed their first northern-style Spring Festival.

"The most anticipated part of the trip was the Lunar New Year's Eve fireworks show and the pig slaughtering feast," Zhang said. "When I inquired over the phone, the resort said we could have an authentic northeastern pig slaughtering feast in the courtyard, set off firecrackers, build snowmen — my children were very excited when they heard this, so we immediately booked our trip."

Cai Huiyu, a spokeswoman for the resort, said that in order to ensure the long-term development of the tourism industry, Changchun's city government had collaborated with local businesses in recent years to make long-term plans for the development of ice and snow attractions, ski resorts, ecological parks, hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, entertainment venues, supporting infrastructure such as airports and roads, and annual events like aviation shows and theme park activities.

"For the sake of economic development, the people of our hometown are united," she said. "During the New Year holiday, the number of tourists was so large that the service staff couldn't keep up.

"All the office employees of our company voluntarily came to the restaurant in the morning to help out. It was quite impressive to see 'waiters' in suits carrying dishes and washing dishes everywhere. I believe this sincerity will also impress the tourists."

Jilin Provincial Construction Group began building the tourism project, which includes Ice and Snow New World and ski resorts, in 2019, and they have gone on to become must-visit destinations for tourists.

Tourists from southern provinces visiting the northeast tend to choose Changchun as their destination or transfer point, and many deposit their luggage at Ice and Snow New World's reception hall.

From Feb 11 to Thursday, 141,000 visitors were received — an average of more than 28,000 a day.

A total of 428,000 cubic meters of ice were used in the 156-hectare ice and snow theme park, most of which was taken from rivers and lakes such as Tianding River and Jinhu Lake. More than 70,000 cubic meters were stored in an ice cellar the previous winter.

"Usually, in December, the lakes in Changchun are not completely frozen," Cai said.

"In order to open the park earlier to welcome tourists, the craftsmen first carve the ice stored in the ice cellar from the previous year."

Sculptures at Ice and Snow New World include everything from the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac to miniature buildings and historical figures. Visitors are amazed by the skill of the ice and snow sculptors, many of whom trained as construction workers.

"In the northeast, because of the low temperatures in autumn and winter, construction sites shut down," Cai said. "In the past, construction workers had no work in the winter. Now, after training, they can become ice and snow construction craftsmen, or they can also help out in restaurants, ski resorts and so on, significantly increasing their family's annual income."

Han Junhong contributed to this story.

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