‘Cloud tourism’ a new fad in China amid coronavirus-induced travel restrictions
Published: May 20, 2022 08:30 PM
During the May Day holidays in early May, Zha Liguo, a veteran tour guide, enjoyed five sunrises and sunsets over Huangshan Mountain, a UNESCO world heritage site in East China's Anhui Province.

He was joined by hundreds of thousands of travel aficionados who enjoyed the stunning views on their mobile devices in what has come to be known as "cloud tourism."

During the five-day holiday, Zha, 44, would begin his day with a broadcast of the sunrise at the top of the mountain at 5 am. He then would trek more than 10 kilometers across the grand canyon and wait for the sunset with his only companion - three mobile phones.

"Cloud tourism" has become a new trend in China as people are advised not to go on long trips due to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Thanks to livestreaming, people can visit tourist attractions virtually and appreciate the scenery without going outdoors.

A live tour of Shanghai Wild Animal Park attracted over 10 million viewers in less than a month. During the May Day holidays, more than 1 million tourists virtually visited several cultural sites, scenic spots and museums in Taiyuan in North China's Shanxi Province.

Having worked in the tourism industry for more than two decades, Zha began experimenting with live streaming in 2020 due to the impact of the epidemic. His affable attitude, engaging presentation abilities, and high-quality filming have helped him accumulate more than 700,000 followers within three years.

"The epidemic has made it hard for many people to travel far away. I hope to share the magnificent view of Huangshan Mountain in different seasons from my own perspective," Zha said.

In 2021, he lived on Huangshan Mountain for more than 280 days, and the live broadcast lasted for more than 2,000 hours, attracting over 51 million viewers.

Not far away from the Huangshan Mountain, the ancient Hongcun Village, a renowned cultural heritage site in Yixian county, is also exploring new possibilities.

In less than a year since the village created an official livestreaming account on Douyin in August 2021, it has gained more than 100,000 followers.

"In addition to the landscape, we also take the audience closer to local traditional folk customs and intangible cultural heritage, such as lantern making and wood carving. Compared with the traditional cursory tour, 'cloud tourism' can give them a much deeper understanding of a place," said Huang Jie, deputy general manager of a local tourism company.

"Cloud tourism" has not only increased the appeal of tourist attractions but also spurred the growth of local industries and products. The sales of relevant products in the scenic zone shot up in livestreamed shows, said Cheng Qiuping with the Huangshan Tourism Development Co, Ltd, adding that at present about 40 tour guides regularly livestream from Huangshan Mountain.

The live video streams have also cultivated a huge potential customer base for the years to come.

"I enjoy mountaineering and would love to go to Huangshan Mountain in the future," read a message left in Zha's live stream.