What drives the growth of China's soft power
  ·  2024-03-15  ·   Source: Xinhua News Agency

An aerial drone photo taken on March 10 shows the Zuiderdam cruise ship arriving at Dalian port in Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning Province (XINHUA)

On March 10 and 11, about 2,000 tourists and staff members aboard the Zuiderdam cruise ship operated by the Holland America Line visited the port city of Dalian in northeast China and Tianjin Municipality, respectively.

The Zuiderdam was the first international cruise ship that docked in northeast China since the country announced the full resumption of international cruise ship transport to and from its ports in September 2023.

The itinerary of the tourists, hailing from some 30 countries and regions, featured visits to multiple scenic spots in Dalian while they also participated in cultural experience activities.

"Although the tourists only stay in Dalian for one day, we have prepared five travel routes for them, which not only allow them to visit over a dozen scenic spots but also provide interactive experiences such as taking trams and visiting local families," said Zhang Shuqiu, general manager of Splendia Travel (Dalian), which is responsible for the reception of the tourists in Dalian.

Since the Spring Festival holiday, which lasted from February 10 to 17 this year, China's cruise tourism market has seen a significant surge.

On Feb. 22, four international cruise ships, including China's first domestically built large cruise ship Adora Magic City, docked in Shanghai.

On Tuesday, the world's major cruise line operator, Royal Caribbean International, announced its new China route deployment plan, with two cruise ships deployed for the ports of Shanghai, Tianjin, and Hong Kong.

According to data from China's leading travel platform, Fliggy, during the Spring Festival holiday, orders for cruise ship trips, including domestic and international cruise ship travel, increased by 445 percent compared with the same period last year.

"The economic climate index of China cruise ships in 2023 has increased significantly, exceeding expectations. The year 2024 is expected to become a key year for the comprehensive development of China's cruise economy," said Ye Xinliang, a professor from Shanghai University of Engineering Science, who focuses on economic research of the cruise industry.

To aid the growth of cruise tourism, immigration authorities in north China's Tianjin have provided effective and convenient services to facilitate visitors' entry aboard the Zuiderdam.

Bi Linlin, a local immigration inspection officer, said they worked with the cruise line and the port company to streamline passenger clearance procedures and meet the needs of tourists.

As the largest cruise home port in north China, Tianjin International Cruise Home Port has welcomed 16 cruise ships and seen 50,000 tourist visits so far this year, according to Dong Zichen, deputy general manager of Tianjin International Cruise Home Port Co., Ltd. "We are quite optimistic about the recovery of the cruise tourism industry in Tianjin," Dong said.

The flourishing cruise tourism industry also offers a glimpse into China's accelerated recovery of outbound and inbound tourist markets.

According to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Chinese mainland saw 3.6 million tourist departures and 3.23 million tourist arrivals during the eight-day Spring Festival holiday, thanks to favorable policies such as mutual visa exemptions.

To provide more convenience for global travelers, the country has recently taken steps to make mobile payments easier for visitors from abroad, such as guiding mobile payment platforms to raise their single transaction limit. Identity verification processes are also becoming simpler.

China's total inbound and outbound trips are expected to exceed 264 million this year, generating tourism revenue of $107 billion, the China Tourism Academy said.

"With government support policies and people's increasing demand for cruise tourism, we believe that the cruise tourism industry will develop rapidly in China," said Jiao Deshuai, senior assistant manager of the shipping department at the Sinotrans North China Container Company, which is engaged in the cruise ship agency business.

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