Following in the footsteps of Moganshan (near Shanghai), Hainan island, and southwest China's Yunnan province, tourism officials in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang have recently started to look into ways to leverage the region's natural beauty to make it an eco-tourism hotspot. As Heilongjiang provincial CPPCC (Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference) member Zhang Xiang (张翔) recently announced to committee members, unlike top Chinese tourism destinations in the country's southwest, Heilongjiang -- due to extreme weather conditions and relatively high cost of travel -- currently lacks a long-term strategy to attract more foreign and domestic tourists, but the province's eco-tourism potential is both high and untapped.
Detailing his plan to make Heilongjiang an eco-tourism powerhouse, Zhang made a number of suggestions to the committee. Via Dongbei Net (translation by Jing Daily team):
The first thing we need to do to spur more tourism to Heilongjiang is to reduce the high cost of travel, for air tickets, hotels, food and tourism. Rising prices should be tightly controlled, particularly during holidays, to bring in more tourists.
Second, we need to hire environmental, construction and art experts to develop a long-term plan to foster the region's eco-tourism industry, and develop a unique regional style of tourism based on our rural culture.
Third, we've got to promote Heilongjiang's cultural particularities, increasing our support of culture and educating more young people on the region's traditional culture. We should launch snow and ice tours, tours of minority cultures, and tours of ancient cultural sites and our rural scenery. We have to take advantage of the strengths of our province.
Fourth, it's important that we create something of a tourism business district. This is heavily related to the arts. We need to further encourage the collection of traditional arts and crafts, as well as boosting the visibility of our traditional artists.
Fifth, it's key that we build a modern, landmark building in the region designed by a top international or domestic architect. This would include a six-star hotel, large-scale duty-free mall, luxury shopping, a modern cinema and entertainment venues, and more. This would attract more visitors from around the world.
Though Zhang's massive mall complex seems to go against his lofty dreams of eco-tourism, clearly he and other Heilongjiang tourism industry figures see the business they're losing to more temperate eco-tourism locales like Yunnan as a huge motivation to revamp the provincial industry and start essentially from scratch. Considering the rate at which middle-class Chinese tourists are criss-crossing the country both for business and pleasure, the onus is on Heilongjiang officials to giving tourists ample reason to brave the region's often extreme weather. It's certainly going to take more than an annual Ice and Snow Festival.