Tourism thrives on Chi­naRus­sia bor­der city Manzhouli

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL - Xinhua

At a vir­tual re­al­ity the­ater in the China-Rus­sia bor­der city of Manzhouli, a group of tourists ex­pe­ri­ence fly­ing over the vast Hu­lun Buir grass­lands, div­ing to the bot­tom of Lake Baikal and es­cap­ing the roar­ing bears of the Greater Hing­gan Moun­tains.

The film, which was be­ing shown at a lo­cal theme park, vi­su­al­ized the com­bi­na­tion of Chi­nese and Rus­sian at­trac­tions that make bor­der cities like Manzhouli pop­u­lar for tourists from home and abroad.

Xiao Long, 26, was among the au­di­ence. “I’ve seen the Rus­sian style ar­chi­tec­ture of Manzhouli, the ma­tryoshka doll theme park and the Mon­go­lian style scenery like the grass­lands,” he said. “They are all more im­pres­sive than I ex­pected.”

With a pop­u­la­tion of around 300,000, Manzhouli is lo­cated in the north­east of the In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion in North China.

Ac­cord­ing to mu­nic­i­pal tourism au­thor­ity, a to­tal of 6.82 mil­lion tourists vis­ited Manzhouli in 2016, among whom al­most 600,000 were Rus­sians, gen­er­at­ing a rev­enue of 11.6 bil­lion yuan ($1.74 bil­lion), al­most 20 per­cent higher than the pre­vi­ous year.

“Trans­porta­tion has be­come more con­ve­nient,” said Xiao Long, who flew from Bei­jing to Manzhouli. “This is very im­por­tant given Manzhouli’s lo­ca­tion deep in In­ner Mon­go­lia.”

The city now boasts over 20 do­mes­tic air routes and eight in­ter­na­tional ones, as well as rail­way lines and long dis­tance bus ser­vices, link­ing it with dozens of ma­jor Chi­nese and for­eign cities like Ho­hhot, the re­gional cap­i­tal, Bei­jing and Ulan Ba­tor, cap­i­tal of Mon­go­lia.

In front of the his­toric Manzhouli Ho­tel, three mid­dle-aged Rus­sian tourists cheer and dance to the per­for­mances staged on the ho­tel bal­cony. “We are very happy to be here,” one of them said.

In late 2016, Manzhouli was listed by the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion as a demon­stra­tion zone for “all-for- one” tourism, a term men­tioned in this year’s gov­ern­ment work re­port, to cater to the coun­try’s grow­ing de­mand for tourism prod­ucts and ser­vices and fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic tran­si­tion.

“Tourism ac­counts for up to 15.6 per­cent of the city’s econ­omy,” said Gao Wenhe, deputy mayor of Manzhouli. “We will com­bine all our tourism re­sources and in­te­grate tourism with the city’s over­all devel­op­ment plan.”

For Chi­nese tourists, one of the ma­jor at­trac­tions of Manzhouli is the mag­nif­i­cent “na­tional gate” that stands on the bor­der with Rus­sia. The milk­white build­ing, over 40 me­ters tall, pro­vides visi­tors with bird­s­eye views of Rus­sian ter­ri­tory.

A 35-year-old tourist, sur­named Wang, de­scribed the build­ing as “solemn” and “ma­jes­tic.” Trav­el­ing with her 7-year-old daugh­ter, Wang said they came to Manzhouli mainly to see the gate.

Right next to the gate is a spe­cial mu­tual-trade zone, where Rus­sian prod­ucts are sold tax-free to Chi­nese tourists and lo­cal res­i­dents. Rus­sian tourists can also buy duty-free Chi­nese prod­ucts in the zone.

Yu Jing, man­ager of the trade zone, said around 1,000 Chi­nese cus­tomers shop for Rus­sian food and daily ne­ces­si­ties daily dur­ing peak sea­son. The stores are usu­ally run by Chi­nese and Rus­sian busi­ness peo­ple in part­ner­ship.

“Chi­nese cus­toms have fa­cil­i­tated the claims and clear­ance pro­cesses,” said Yu. “Thanks to the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive, our work has pro­gressed more smoothly.”

A 24-year-old teacher sur­named Zhou, who used a de­liv­ery ser­vice to send home the goods she had just bought, said the only thing she was not sat­is­fied with dur­ing the trip was the ac­com­mo­da­tion. “Fa­cil­i­ties at the ho­tel could be bet­ter,” she said.

Nest­ing-doll Square in Manzhouli, In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion

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