Red tourism brings golden op­por­tu­ni­ties in China and Rus­sia

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS -

CHANG­SHA — A tour bus trav­els along a wind­ing road on the out­skirts of Moscow. On­board, a group of Chi­nese tourists, all in their 50s and 60s, sing along to Moscow Nights, a tune pro­duced dur­ing the for­mer Soviet Union. Nos­tal­gia is in.

This is a “red tour” or­ga­nized by a travel agency in Cen­tral China’s Hu­nan prov­ince, home of Mao Ze­dong (1893-1976), ac­cord­ing to Shu Lian­gliang, the tour guide.

Shu has been a tour guide for more than three years, tak­ing Chi­nese vis­i­tors to iconic sites in Moscow such as Lenin’s Mau­soleum, the Krem­lin, and Red Square.

“Most of my tourists are se­nior cit­i­zens who ex­pe­ri­enced the ‘hon­ey­moon phase’ be­tween China and the Soviet Union,” Shu said.

Red tours — those tak­ing vis­i­tors to the sites of early com­mu­nist ac­tiv­i­ties — are boom­ing in China and Rus­sia, as the two gov­ern­ments have signed agree­ments to boost such ac­tiv­i­ties in re­cent years.

Shu vividly re­mem­bers one of his tourists recit­ing a Mao speech at the Uni­ver­sity of Moscow, where Mao orig­i­nally gave the speech. “He had mem­o­rized ev­ery word,” Shu re­called.

In 2015, 22 tourism agen­cies from China and Rus­sia agreed to con­duct red tours dur­ing a tourism ex­change pro­gram held in Shaoshan, birth­place of Mao Ze­dong. As di­rect flight routes con­tinue to open and dis­pos­able in­come in­creases, more and more such tours have hit the road.

In 2015, for ex­am­ple, 4,497 peo­ple from Hu­nan vis­ited Rus­sia on red tours. In 2016, the num­ber rose 72.27 per­cent year-on-year to 7,747.

More than 1,000 peo­ple from Yan’an, a “red city” in north­west­ern China’s Shaanxi prov­ince, be­gan driv­ing in a con­vey to Rus­sia re­cently as part of a red tour. A sim­i­lar car­a­van of ve­hi­cles left from Chang­sha, cap­i­tal of Hu­nan prov­ince.

To cater to ris­ing de­mand, Rus­sia’s tourism au­thor­i­ties have launched a se­ries of “red-themed” tourism prod­ucts spe­cially de­signed for Chi­nese tourists. In St. Peters­burg, known as Pet­ro­grad from 1914 to 1924, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment touts prod­ucts as­so­ci­ated with the Soviet Union to co­in­cide with the 100th an­niver­sary of the Oc­to­ber Rev­o­lu­tion, with itin­er­ar­ies im­part­ing his­tory about “Chi­nese Com­rades in Red Pet­ro­grad” and the “Fe­bru­ary Rev­o­lu­tion in Pet­ro­grad”.

Mean­while, China’s red tourism sites, where its early com­mu­nist ac­tiv­i­ties be­gan, are draw­ing a large num­ber of Rus­sian tourists, par­tic­u­larly Hu­nan, home­town of Chi­nese rev­o­lu­tion­ary fig­ures such as Mao, Liu Shaoqi (1898-1969), and Peng De­huai (1898-1974), which cur­rently has 140 red tourist sites.

Shaoshan, Mao’s birth­place, is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar with for­eign tourists, said Wen Ben­hui, deputy head of the lo­cal tourism de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sion.

“As the top tourism des­ti­na­tion in Hu­nan, Shaoshan is be­com­ing a driv­ing force be­hind Hu­nan’s red tourism,” Wen said.

At the tourist sites, vis­i­tors can view his­toric posters of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary he­roes, read sto­ries of their early life and com­mu­nist ac­tiv­i­ties in their for­mer res­i­dences, try on the uni­forms of red sol­diers, as well as en­joy lo­cal foods and watch per­for­mances de­pict­ing the he­roes’ fight­ing spir­its.

Li Yalan, a Hu­nan-based tour guide with China Travel Ser­vice, said that her com­pany re­ceives on av­er­age 15 Rus­sian tour groups per month, most of them com­ing as fam­i­lies. Last year, Hu­nan re­ceived 35,035 Rus­sian tourists, up 31.66 per­cent year-on-year.

Like St. Peters­burg, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Hu­nan also or­ga­nized spe­cially de­signed red tours for Rus­sian vis­i­tors, with tourism prod­ucts such as “The early life of Mao Ze­dong” and “The War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion in Hu­nan” prov­ing quite pop­u­lar.

“We hope to cre­ate great itin­er­ar­ies to boost the de­vel­op­ment of red tourism,” said an of­fi­cial with the pro­vin­cial tourism de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sion.

Most of my tourists are se­nior cit­i­zens who ex­pe­ri­enced the ‘hon­ey­moon phase’ be­tween China and the Soviet Union.” Shu Lian­gliang, a tour guide

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