In northern Shaanxi province, Yan'an builds pillar industry around the past
On a rainy day earlier in October, the chilly weather didn't cool the enthusiasm of visitors to Yan'an in northern Shaanxi province.
Many of them - old and young, on a pilgrimage to the shrine city - put on replica uniforms of the Eighth Route Army, one of two major military groups led by the Communist Party of China during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
Jiang Yuexin, a 47-year-old sales manager from Jiangsu province, and her undergraduate daughter were among the "red tourism" visitors who came to learn about the Party's 13-year history in the city, holding an umbrella and carefully listening to their guide's introduction of the famous Baota Tower.
"I've learned about this city in books and TV shows, particularly the tower. So has my daughter. So we came here to see the structure ourselves," Jiang said.
The city received more than 49 million tourists in the first nine months this year, bringing revenue of 32.8 billion yuan ($4.75 billion) - a 41 percent increase over the first nine months of 2017, according to Yan'an Tourism Development Commission. Visitors to red tourism sites are estimated to account for about 70 percent of all tourists, local officials said.
Yan'an, the headquarters of the Red Army after the Long March, is one of China's three most popular destinations for red tourism, a form of tourism focused on the Party's revolutionary history, according to the China Red Tourism Report, released by tourism website lvmama.com.
The CPC Central Committee worked in the city for 13 years, from 1934 to 1947, under Chairman Mao Zedong and other leaders. The city has more than 9,200 cultural relics, including 445 closely related to red culture.
Ma Dongpo, director of the Yan'an Tourism Development Commission, said red tourism is the core of the city's tourism industry.
"The Party was here for 13 years and Mao Zedong Thought was formed. Visitors will learn more about the hardships endured in the fight and of the spirit of innovation," Ma said
Tourism has become a strategic pillar industry in Yan'an. It is committed to industrial restructuring and improving the quality of services. The city has more than 50 tourism agencies, 800 tourist guides and more than 600 hotels, including 43 star-rated ones, the Yan'an Tourism Development Commission said. The industry provides employment for more than 100,000 local people.
By 2020, the city aims to receive more than 70 million tourists a year, who are expected to spend 40 billion yuan. As more tourists flock into the city, new tourism destinations are being built to meet increasing demand. In the suburban district of Ansai, a new tourist resort - the Xiying Northern Shaanxi Folksong Cultural Village - opened on Oct 19. Travelers can enjoy Xintianyou folk songs and local food.
The resort, covering 84,000 square meters, was designed to receive 500,000 tourists a year. Liu Yi, Party chief of the Jinming Street office in the district, was in charge of building the resort and said it provides more than 300 jobs for villagers and local people can also earn extra income by running hostels.
"The booming holiday economy and red tourism can optimize the local economic structure as the resort can change our heavy reliance on agriculture and develop service industries," Liu said. "With more visitors coming, the local economy and residential incomes can grow faster."