Over­seas KOLs help pro­mote TCM tourism

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWOCENTS - By David Lee

China has been cul­ti­vat­ing Key Opin­ion Lead­ers (KOL) to pro­mote tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM) tourism, and the ex­per­i­ment is pay­ing off well. In mid-Septem­ber, a group of over­seas KOLs gath­ered in Bei­jing as guests of the Bei­jing Mu­nic­i­pal Com­mis­sion of Tourism De­vel­op­ment to ex­pe­ri­ence tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, in its wide va­ri­ety of forms such as acupunc­ture, ear can­dling, cup­ping, tai chi, herbal pill prepa­ra­tion, and medic­i­nal sa­chet mak­ing.

The group, com­ing from Rus­sia, Spain, Mex­ico, and Malaysia, had the op­por­tu­nity to en­gage with lo­cal TCM prac­ti­tion­ers to bet­ter un­der­stand how treat­ment and ser­vices can be ren­dered. TCM tourism has been pro­moted to – and well re­ceived by – China’s ag­ing ur­ban pop­u­la­tion keen on a healthy re­tire­ment life­style.

The ap­peal to af­flu­ent mid­dle-class se­niors is nat­u­ral, as it is they who most de­sire to re­turn to their es­sen­tial roots and de­tach from the mod­ern hus­tling. But the idea of pro­mot­ing TCM to for­eign­ers is rel­a­tively new, which is why China is lever­ag­ing the ex­per­i­ment on over­seas KOLs.

In March, China an­nounced the coun­try’s first batch of TCM tourism in­dus­try bases. As a joint ef­fort by the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine, 73 TCM tourist des­ti­na­tions were an­nounced and ex­pected to at­tract droves of visi­tors from home and abroad.

The in­te­gra­tion of TCM with tourism of­fers an op­por­tu­nity where over­seas KOLs can dis­cover cool des­ti­na­tions and fun ex­pe­ri­ences. There are, how­ever, caveats when at­tract­ing po­ten­tial for­eign tourists. The some­times enig­matic po­tency of TCM, in its many ex­otic forms, comes with both charm and pit­falls.

When it comes to TCM, there has been a lot of hype about its mirac­u­lous cur­ing pow­ers, to the ex­tent of be­ing su­per­nat­u­ral; there are many myths and mis­un­der­stand­ings that un­der­mine TCM’s cred­i­bil­ity. Ba­si­cally, the philo­soph­i­cal foun­da­tion of TCM, ex­pressed in terms like “yin-yang” and “wux­ing (the five phases),” is to­tally dif­fer­ent from mod­ern Western med­i­cal sci­ence.

Though there is a huge sci­en­tific de­bate about TCM’s philo­soph­i­cal roots, the many forms of tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine such as acupunc­ture and herbal nu­tri­ents have long been proven ef­fec­tive through solid em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence. In­deed, just like yoga from In­dia, TCM is ap­peal­ing to global au­di­ences keen on ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent and in­no­va­tive ways to im­prove their health and well­ness.

There­fore, the strat­egy to con­vince KOLs first is clever one, in that the mes­sage about TCM, its po­tency, ef­fects and re­lated touris­tic ac­tiv­i­ties will be de­liv­ered by com­mu­ni­ca­tions ex­perts with sub­tlety and nu­ances to en­sure both sci­en­tific rig­or­ous­ness and an ef­fec­tive pitch.

TCM tourists des­ti­na­tions across China must also be staffed by per­son­nel who have the nec­es­sary knowl­edge and sen­si­tiv­ity to pro­vide in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers with qual­ity ser­vice based on sound sci­ence. There are many ways TCM can help, nur­ture, cure, and care the sick and the in­firm, and there are TCM busi­nesses and prac­ti­tion­ers who look to of­fer sales and ser­vice be­yond China.

There is ev­ery rea­son for TCM-themed tourism to be both fun and con­ducive to a healthy body and mind. Over­seas KOLs can help con­vey the right mes­sage and let in­ter­na­tional cus­tomers look­ing for new and in­no­va­tive medicine to ben­e­fit from their trip to China.

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