Chi­nese, Rus­sian trav­el­ers cel­e­brate icons on nos­tal­gic Red Tours

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS -

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

This is a “Red Tour” or­ga­nized by a travel agency in cen­tral China’s Hu­nan prov­ince, home of Mao Ze­dong, 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 Rus­sia such as Lenin’s tomb, 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 inked 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.

Last week, more than 1,000 peo­ple from Yan’an, a “Red City” in north­west China’s Shaanxi prov­ince, be­gan driv­ing in a con­voy to Rus­sia 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 100 th 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 prov­ince, home­town of Chi­nese rev­o­lu­tion­ary fig­ures such as Mao, Liu Shaoqi, and Peng De­huai, 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 spirit.

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 themed tours such as “The early life of Mao Ze­dong” and “The War of Re­sist- ance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion in Hu­nan” be­com­ing quite pop­u­lar.

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

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Chi­nese tourists wear­ing mil­i­tary mem­o­ra­bilia saunter through cen­tral St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, dur­ing a tour or­ga­nized to re­live mem­o­ries of “Chi­nese Com­rades in Red Pet­ro­grad”.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A farmer in Huaxi vil­lage, Jiangsu prov­ince, checks a paddy that uses Ja­panese rice farm­ing tech­nol­ogy.

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