Resorts in the frame as tourist photography services boom

Many facilities in the China tourism industry are adopting different ways to harness the potential of the fast-growing market.

Chen Bowen and Zhang Xiaomin

Chen Bowen and Zhang Xiaomin

China Daily


Travel photographers take shots of a visitor on a beach in Sanya, Hainan province, last year. [PHOTO/CHINA DAILY]

May 2, 2023

BEIJINGMany facilities are looking to harness the potential of the fast-growing market

In the Palace Museum, aka the Forbidden City, in Beijing, tourists wearing elaborate makeup and traditional Chinese costumes look like they have traveled back in time when seen through the photographer’s lens.

“I like to take photos. It is convenient to hire a photographer now, but I always make sure that we do not affect the other tourists,” said Yan Wenting, 27, who lives in the capital. “Some of my wedding photos were taken at the Temple of Heaven Park. It was beautiful and memorable.”

Influenced by social media platforms, travel photography has become a new trend in tourist consumption in China, and such services have almost become must-try activities at a number of popular destinations.

A bustling street in Fenghuang Ancient Town, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, Hunan province, that was once filled with bars is now home to many photo studios. The ancient town is known for its well-preserved architecture and river-town scenery with features of the Tujia and Miao ethnic groups.

In its 0.91-square kilometer core scenic area, there are more than 1,000 shops offering services for makeup, clothing rental and photography, according to Hunan Daily.

Many shops post photos with a strong ethnic feel on social media platforms. Customers can look at them online, make inquiries, place orders after discussions and make appointments for shoots.

A girl wears a mermaid costume to pose for a photo at the Atlantis Sanya Resort, an ocean-themed facility in Hainan, in July. [PHOTO/CHINA DAILY]

Developing trend

“Now, online and offline orders are almost 50-50,” said Ma Yizhen, 35, a freelance photographer in Dalian, Liaoning province. “For tourists from other cities in Northeast China, Dalian’s ocean scenery is most attractive. Usually, I undertake no fewer than 20 assignments every month from April to October.”

Ma started shooting engagement pictures in 2009. He once flew to Xiamen, Fujian province, to take photos for a couple at their invitation in 2011. Since then, he has shuttled between the two coastal cities for summer and winter every year.

“Reservations for the next three months are already all taken,” he said, adding that the customers are mainly young people taking wedding photos or recording their travels.

Sanya, in the southern island province of Hainan, is listed as one of the top destinations for travel photography, according to many platforms.

Last month, searches for “wedding photos” and “travel photos” in Sanya rose by 35 percent year-on-year, according to on-demand service platform Meituan. It also said that many shooting bases in the city’s scenic spots have set up comprehensive makeup service areas that can accommodate nearly 200 customers simultaneously.

Data from online travel platform Ctrip show that this May Day holiday, the total number of travel orders for Hainan has risen by 411 percent from the same period last year.

In Hainan, a photo trip can take different styles — oceanic, pastoral, athletic, retro or ethnic. Guided by the photographers, couples in wedding dress wear big smiles, leaving a happy moment in the vows of eternal love; young tourists pose in the pool surrounded by coconut trees, ready to fill their WeChat moments with holiday photos; meanwhile, families wear ethnic clothing and walk in a tropical rainforest, hoping to record the beautiful memory.

The biggest advantage of Hainan’s travel photography market is the island’s tropical climate and natural scenery, according to Yuan Wei, senior director of operations management at Fosun Holiday, a tourism group that provides travel photography services.

“Tourists, especially those who come to Sanya for the first time, may have a strong desire for photographs when they see the beautiful sea and sand, and breathe the fresh air,” he said.

In Sanya, travel photography customers mainly come from Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces.

Meanwhile, families from Russia, France and South Korea opt for the little mermaid and underwater mermaid shooting services, for example, at the Atlantis Sanya Resort, Yuan said.

Customization and quality are two keywords of travel photography in Hainan. “It takes hours or even more than a day to meet the shooting needs of our guests,” Yuan said. “We often communicate with them until 1 or 2 am before the shoot, as they are very excited and want to get more information and the best service during their vacation.”

Now, those who want to take travel photos will look at the trending styles on the internet and put forward their customized requirements, including clothing, makeup, scenery and props. They hope to be fashionable and look unique in their travel photos and videos, he added.

He Si, founder of Natural Nobleman, a high-end travel photography brand, said: “I think it is really worth traveling to Hainan. The province is the first-choice seaside tourist destination for most people in China. Travel photography is part of your public image. Posting travel photos and videos can be a way to socialize. When you capture precious moments from your trip with beautiful photos and share them on your WeChat moments, it can bring attention and interaction.”

While Natural Nobleman relies on WeChat and previous customers to attract new guests, Fosun Holiday uses its own hotel channel and a WeChat public account. It has also widened exposure of its products via social media platforms such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu.

A young couple is captured dancing in the Lost Chambers Aquarium at the Atlantis Sanya Resort in February. [PHOTO/CHINA DAILY]

Dedicated spaces

To offer high-quality travel photography products with transparent prices, many popular tourist attractions have started building their own dedicated spaces.

“We’re looking to cooperate with professional travel photographers, and we are planning internet-famous sites at our hotel for customers to snap such pictures,” said Fu Guiyou, account director of the Hainan Universal QiziBay Beach Hotel in the island’s Changjiang Li autonomous county.

Meanwhile, back in Dalian, a professional base for travel photography and wedding pictures is being built on the beach at the Jinshitan National Tourism Resort.

“Relying on the resort’s unique natural resources, we will create professional backgrounds and operate according to the standards of 5A scenic spots for travel photography services,” said Yang Xiaohai, general manager of Hi Coast, a marine cultural tourism project.

“We plan to realize the interaction between Hainan and Dalian to attract customers to Hainan in winter and Dalian in summer,” said Yang, who is also CEO of Hainan Ningsheng Tourism Group.

Elsewhere, Huang Hui, 32, a regular visitor to the Universal Beijing Resort, praised the new rules introduced by the park earlier in April that prevent access of unauthorized commercial photographers who offer tourists photo shoot services at the facility.

“I’ve had very good visiting experiences there. But then, I found that the amusement park had almost become a photo shoot studio, with many visitors posing in front of photographers at some scenic spots, especially the Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” Huang said. “In some areas, the pathways are narrow and their posing just blocked the other visitors.”

On April 3, sources at the resort confirmed that visitors can take photos with their own cameras and phones, providing they are not for commercial purposes. “Photography, videotaping, audio recording or livestreaming of any kind are strictly prohibited, except for personal and noncommercial purposes,” according to the park’s rules.

In fact, other major theme parks have banned unauthorized freelance photo shoot services in order to protect copyright as more visitors, especially young people, are choosing to hire photographers to record the best moments of their trips.

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