Shanghai launches campaign as gateway for inbound tourists
City attracts foreign visitors with rich character
Published: Dec 12, 2023 10:34 PM
The Bund in Shanghai ushers in a large flow of tourists on October 1, 2023. Photo: VCG

The Bund in Shanghai ushers in a large flow of tourists on October 1, 2023. Photo: VCG

With the theme of "Visit Shanghai," a tourist campaign that aims to promote inbound tourism to Shanghai while exhibiting its international cultural image was recently launched in the Chinese mega city known as a prism for China's cultural and social modernity. 

In the first three quarters of 2023, Shanghai received a total of 2.299 million inbound visitors from overseas, according to statistics. Looking to capitalize on this good ­momentum, the tourist campaign has the ambition to make the city the "first stop" for international travelers through various strategies such as enhancing ­local tourism through "culture," hosting international sporting events and also introducing the city's lovable character through people-to-people exchanges. 

At the launch event for the program, several stellar shows set for 2024 were revealed. 

These events not only touch on Chinese culture such as an art exhibition featuring painting masters Lin Fengmian and Wu Guanzhong, but also highlight global cultures such a show dedicated to Egyptian civilization. 

Indicating that these diverse events demonstrate the "open and cultivated" character of Shanghai, Liao Weiyi, a cultural study researcher, told the Global Times that the consumption of art and culture is an "indispensable" factor for tourist growth, especially the growth of urban tourism. 

"Tourism involves spending time understanding local cultures, and the city of Shanghai can leave international visitors with a good 'contrast' impression since it is both modern and historical. Also, it is a place where Chinese culture meets cultures from around the world," the expert said. 

Seven expats from countries like Germany, France and Malaysia were named as ambassadors of Shanghai international tourism at the campaign event. By sharing their life stories in Shanghai and learning the Shanghai dialects, these international visitors are a bridge showing how people-to-people exchanges play a significant role in cross-cultural communication. 

Millie, a 28-year-old British musician who lives in Shanghai, told the Global Times that she has hosted many of her European friends during her five years in China. The city is becoming more convenient for her as "even some grocery ladies can speak English."

"There are some small things, beautiful old alleyways and the smell of Chinese food… they make Shanghai a city of rich character," she noted. 

Shanghai is not the only Chinese city seeking to promote local tourism to overseas visitors. After shaking off the shadow of COVID-19, Chengdu in Sichuan Province is using tags such as "pandas" and "Sanxingdui Shu culture" in several promotional campaigns launched in cities such as Tokyo, Philadelphia and Paris. 

For instance, "The Home of the Panda," an event that introduces Chengdu's key travel routes, was held at the Consulate General of China in New York in March. 

"Promoting inbound tourism serves as a part of China's tourist strategy that coordinates with the development of domestic tourism to form a good circle," cultural policy expert Li Young told the Global Times. 

Li also added that policy-wise, the country has made huge efforts to restore tourism in 2023. 

Back in January, China rolled out a number of eased visa and entry policies for foreigners to promote tourism and strengthen cultural exchanges and economic ties.

From December 1, 2023 to November 30, 2024, holders of ordinary passports from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia can enter China visa-free for business, tourism, visiting relatives and friends and transit for no more than 15 days, according to an online statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in November. 

The MFA announced in early December on its social media account that Chinese embassies and consulates overseas will be offering a temporary discount of 25 percent on visa fees from December 11, 2023 to December 31, 2024.

On September 20, China streamlined its visa application process in an effort to attract more visitors from abroad. Applicants are only required to list any places they have visited in the last 12 months rather than the previous five years, and the section regarding educational background only includes the highest level they have achieved, according to the MFA.

In November, China expanded its visa-free transit policy to include citizens from Norway for 72/144-hour stays, bringing the total number of applicable countries to 54. Citizens from the 54 countries are exempted from visa requirements during transit for 72 or 144 hours when heading for a third nation, according to the National Immigration Administration.