Across China: Online sightseeing trendy among would-be tourists amid epidemic



Opening an oil-paper umbrella to wander around the rainy ancient alleys and listening to traditional Chinese opera on the stage of a waterside pavilion, a nostalgic visit to the renowned southern Chinese city of Fuzhou has been broadcast live to over 100,000 viewers who are trapped at home amid the epidemic.

Most scenic spots across the country have closed their doors to reduce the gathering of crowds while eager tourists at home turn to online tours to catch a glimpse of the early spring.

Livestreaming platforms and travel agencies have teamed up with interested tourist sites to make online sightseeing more accessible. Celebrities from popular social media platforms are invited to spice up online guided tours.

"Compared with offline visits, the touring route for livestreaming requires more detailed planning," said Chen Yingying, a docent in a scenic spot in Fuzhou. "Stories must be told in a limited period and highlighting the history of the architecture, folklore, food and culture and real-time interaction with the audience is also necessary."

As and Ticktock launched their livestreaming tours, more scenic spots started to warm up in an attempt to get a slice of the potentially lucrative market.

Since Feb. 24, a live program series created by China's largest online travel agency Group and has attracted nearly 10 million views with 15 episodes including visits to Hangzhou, Xi'an, Macau and Fuzhou, as well as Malaysia and Canada.

Li Rui, the host of the show, said he expects the journey to be both interesting and informative to the audience.

It is a smart way for the tourism industry to respond to the latest livestreaming craze, said Jin Meng with the marketing department of Group. The lack of tourists during the epidemic outbreak also allows the online tours to display the scenic spots to the greatest extent, thus attracting more viewers, Jin said.

The idea has also sparked rising interest in history and culture. Museums, galleries and historic sites have staged exhibitions of their rare treasures and attracted millions of viewers. Some of the unopen areas of the Potala Palace in Tibet were broadcast live for the first time.

In the long run, watching livestreamed tours is likely to become a habit for travelers, Jin said, adding that people can book the same tours featured in the livestream.