Harbin to continue snow festival despite COVID-19
Published: Jan 14, 2021 06:13 PM

Photo taken with a drone shows workers building an ice installation at the Harbin Ice-Snow World, a renowned seasonal theme park opening every winter, in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Dec. 19, 2020. (Xinhua/Xie Jianfei)

Harbin Ice-Snow World, part of the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival and a popular ice sculpture park in Harbin, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, told the Global Times that it is still open to tourists despite recent COVID-19 flare-ups in the province, but it could suspend operations on further notice of the government. 

"In previous years, the park was open until the beginning of March, based on the temperature. This year due to COVID-19, the park could close temporarily at any time if it receives a notice from the municipal government," an employee at the tourist destination told the Global Times on Thursday.

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is one of the largest snow festivals in the world and one of the most popular in China, with more than 50 years of history. In 2019, the festival welcomed more than 7,000 visitors on the first day, and usually more than one- third of the visitors come from other provinces. 

This season, the festival in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang, was intended to last from November 2020 to April this year. However, recent flare-ups of COVID-19 in Heilongjiang have made the dates uncertain.

According to the latest updates from local health authorities, 40 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Heilongjiang and 50 new asymptomatic cases were also confirmed.

In light of this, the park has stepped up prevention measures and cancelled all performances and interactive facilities. The entry fee was also cut to 100 yuan ($15.46) from 300 yuan, the employee added. 

Visitors need to make real-name reservations online, show their reservation code and health code, provide their travel routes and have their body temperatures taken before entering the park. They also need to wear masks throughout the visit, according to an announcement on the website of the scenic spot on Tuesday.

Due to the outbreak and the calls by regional governments at various levels for less travel, Spring Festival bookings for Harbin travel products are low, Xu Xiaolei, marketing manager at China CYTS Tours Holding Co, a major tour operator, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"It's estimated that visitors from other provinces will be at the same level of the 2020 Spring Festival, which was significantly lower than in 2019," Xu said.

Harbin has no plan at present to close any scenic spots, but it aims to keep visitor flows at a maximum of 75 percent of capacity, an official at the Harbin tourism administration told the Global Times on Thursday.

"If the outbreak worsens, we will adjust our policies in line with the national management criteria on low-, medium- and high-risk areas," the official said.

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