The New Year sees northeastern China welcome the depths of winter and the peak season for tourists.
Tourist interest in the region has been increasing, with Heilongjiang, China’s northernmost province, leading the way.
According to a report jointly released by the China Tourism Academy and Chinese travel website Mafengwo on Dec 13, the number of travel notes about Heilongjiang posted on websites by tourists rose by 152 percent last year.
Harbin, the provincial capital, Mohe, China’s northernmost city, and Yichun have become Heilongjiang’s most popular tourist destinations.
Millions of tourists head north to see the country’s most spectacular ice and snow shows in Harbin every year.
The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival starts on Jan 5 and ends at the beginning of March, overlapping with some of China’s most important traditional holidays.
Last winter, more than 1.4 million tourists visited the 19th Harbin Ice and Snow World, one of the most important parts of the festival, with ticket sales exceeding 360 million yuan ($52.22 million), 10 percent more than the previous year.
This winter, a 600,000-square-meter park that started trial operations on Dec 23 includes famous traditional Chinese architecture, Gothic architecture and a 45-meter-high tower, all built with ice.
When night falls, various crystal-clear buildings never fail to amaze, breaking records with their scale and lending themselves to ever more spectacular illuminations.
“Although we have been blessed to see snow in our city Hangzhou this winter, I’m still amazed by huge ice buildings here,” said Liu Yuanqi, a 34-year-old visitor from Hangzhou, capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang province.
Liu visited the park in Harbin after a trip to Mohe.
“It is really an unforgettable travel experience, especially when the tour guide told me that the ice was collected from the frozen Songhua River,” she said. “I was absolutely stunned when I saw the great ice sculptures.”
Jia Lianqi, general manager of Harbin Ice and Snow World, said, “With the fame and prosperity of the park increasing, and given the city’s ice and snow festival, we believe there will be more tourists this year.”
Neighboring Jilin province is gaining, too.
The China (Jilin) International Snow and Ice Tourism Industry Expo has become a prime showcase for Jilin’s winter tourism sector and an ideal stage for cooperation, Chen Shoujun, deputy director of the provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, told a news conference on Nov 20.
The expo, now in its third season, is being held in Changchun, the provincial capital. It started on Dec 23, in conjunction with the 22nd Changchun Ice and Snow Festival, and will run to March.
“More than 146 million tourists visited the festival last year, resulting in tourism revenue of 15.97 billion yuan,” Chen said. “Tourism has become a pillar industry in Jilin and is of great significance to power the transformation and upgrading of the old industrial base of the province.”
Jilin has some of the country’s most beautiful winter scenery and the kind of light powder snow that skiers love most.
In addition to skiing, Jilin is also famous for its hot springs and a spectacular natural winter phenomenon known as rime－an opaque coating of tiny, white, granular ice particles, caused by rapid freezing.
As the most important part of the Changchun Ice and Snow Festival, the 16th Jingyuetan Vasaloppet International Skiing Festival attracted more than 1,500 professional skiers from home and abroad to Changchun Jingyuetan National Forest Park in January last year to join in a series of competitions.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of amateur participants and tourists visited the site to enjoy the competitions and the park’s unique ice and snow landscapes.
The Jilin International Rime Ice and Snow Festival, the Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Festival and the Changchun Snow and Ice Tourism Festival are also among the top-ranking winter tourism events in China.
“It is obvious that winter tourism in China has formed a new consumption hot spot,” said Zhou Lin, a travel researcher with the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences.
“However, it is necessary to promote innovation in winter tourism products to suit various tourist groups, such as developing new itineraries, integrating with folk culture and bolstering infrastructure.”