Suzhou projects its al­lure abroad

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Life - By YANG FEIYUE yangfeiyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Jiangsu prov­ince’s Suzhou has long been a cel­e­brated na­tional desti­na­tion and, in­creas­ingly, an in­ter­na­tional at­trac­tion, in no small part be­cause of con­certed ef­forts to draw overseas glo­be­trot­ters.

The num­ber of an­nual vis­i­tors from abroad has con­tin­ued to in­crease since 2014. Over 2 mil­lion ar­rived last year, 6 per­cent more than in 2016, the city’s tourism bureau’s deputy di­rec­tor Lu Feng says.

About 1.76 mil­lion spent at least a night in the city in 2017.

Ja­pan, South Ko­rea and the United States are the top source coun­tries for vis­i­tors, Lu says.

Suzhou’s tourism author­ity has launched a year­long “Made in Suzhou” cam­paign that high­lights the most dis­tinc­tive lo­cal of­fer­ings, such as silk, lo­cal cui­sine and art, in North Amer­ica since June 2017.

Its so­cial me­dia ac­counts, in­clud­ing Face­book, Twit­ter and In­sta­gram, have gar­nered nearly a quar­ter of a mil­lion fol­low­ers and over 25 mil­lion hits on the con­ti­nent.

“The United States and Canada have rel­a­tively large pop­u­la­tions and rel­a­tively strong con­sump­tion power,” Lu says.

And the ex­change rate of the US dol­lar against the yuan has been rel­a­tively steady com­pared with the euro, he ex­plains.

The city also be­gan to make in­roads in Europe last year.

“We want to show them that we have pro­found his­tory and very dis­tinc­tive cul­ture and, at the same time, of­fer the most mod­ern life­style,” Lu says.

Suzhou’s canal net­works have earned it the nick­name, “China’s Venice”.

Nine of its clas­si­cal gar­dens are in­scribed on the UNESCO World Her­itage List, and 11 sites along the city’s canals are on the UNESCO World Cul­ture Her­itage List.

Suzhou is about half an hour from Shang­hai Hongqiao In­ter­na­tional Air­port via high-speed rail.

Vis­i­tors can pick and brew tea at Taihu Lake’s Dong­shan Moun­tain in spring­time.

Sea­sonal gourmet food is served year-round.

For­eign vis­i­tors en­joy vis­it­ing or­di­nary fam­i­lies’ homes and learn­ing how to make such lo­cal del­i­ca­cies as won­ton.

Some join in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences with lo­cal ar­ti­sans, such as mak­ing fans, cul­ti­vat­ing bon­sai and creating oil-pa­per um­brel­las.

In­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors can also go back­stage to watch Kunqu Opera per­form­ers ap­ply their elab­o­rate makeup and even try it on them­selves.

Suzhou plans to work with travel agencies to de­velop cus­tom­ized tours for in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors.

About 90 travel com­pa­nies in North Amer­ica of­fer 380 Suzhou pack­ages, Lu says.

In­deed, it seems Suzhou will likely con­tinue to at­tract more in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors with its mod­ern ap­proach and an­cient ap­peal.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Canal scenes are among Suzhou’s charms. The city in Jiangsu prov­ince is also known for its clas­si­cal gar­dens, pago­das, white­washed hous­ing, lo­cal cui­sine and art.

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