May 30, 2022
BEIJING – As many people’s travel plans were disrupted by COVID-19, “cloud tourism” has gained in popularity in China.
“Cloud tourism” refers to a form of travel that depends on advanced technologies such as 5G and virtual reality. These technologies enable people to have immersive sightseeing experiences without time and spatial constraints.
Data from the short video platform TikTok showed that 250 million people took a virtual tour via livestream during the five-day May Day Holiday earlier this month.
Among the most popular channels is Taishan Juanjie that livestreamed the sunrise at the top of Taishan Mountain in East China’s Shandong province on May 1, attracting 330,000 views.
Amid the pandemic outbreak, virtual tours received wide recognition from viewers, said China Youth Daily, which conducted a survey of 2,085 people on cloud tourism.
According to the survey results, 74.8 percent of the respondents said they were willing to take a virtual tour and 59.7 percent said they had a good online traveling experience.
“The online exhibitions allow me to pick up, rotate and magnify virtual exhibits. I can study them in detail at any time,” said Wang Bo, a museum enthusiast in Beijing.
“They also save me from large crowds and long queues, which make me annoyed when visiting museums in person,” he said.
In addition to not lining up, “cloud tourism” helps cut traveling expenses and offers tourists an extensive list of scenic spots. The most favored destinations of virtual tours are natural attractions, followed by historic sites, Red tourism spots, museums and theme parks, according to the survey.
“Some natural wonders can only be watched at specific times or with professional equipment. Virtual tourism fulfills people’s desire for enjoying unmissable scenery,” said Liu Simin, deputy director of the tourism chapter of the Chinese Society for Futures Studies.Qiu Yibing, a 21-year-old student from Zhengzhou University, said he has virtually visited a batch of scenic sites around the country thanks to travel livestreams.
“In most broadcasts, veteran tour guides will share details of every attraction and offer a closer view of local customs and intangible cultural heritage. Compared with cursory sightseeing, I got a much deeper understanding of a place in this way,” Qiu said.
“Cloud tourism” has not only enhanced the appeal of tourist attractions but brought economic benefits. Many museums reported a rise in sales of their cultural products after livestreaming shows, according to Xinhua News Agency.
Operators of scenic spots have also sold tickets and local specialties during live tours, recouping losses from pandemic-induced shutdown.
Xie Xiangxiang, deputy dean of the tourism department at Hainan University, said the growing popularity of “cloud tourism” has accelerated the digital transformation of the tourism sector.
Besides technologies, tourism enterprises need to focus on digital product development and employee training, ensuring sustained development momentum, Xie added.
Industry experts also pointed out that virtual tourism cannot be a permanent substitute for real traveling experiences despite its advantages.
However, the various livestreams have cultivated a throng of potential consumers and will help the tourism industry’s recovery when the pandemic is contained, they said.