The Jiaozhuanghu tunnel may have seen more than 150 battles during the second world war but it has attracted precious few tourists in the 60 years since. However, a tunnel museum, established in 1987, has seen thousands of visitors a day in the lead-up to the 'golden week' holiday that kicked off on Sunday. The site, about 60km north of Beijing, is a 23km underground network of tunnels equipped with shelters and command posts. The surge in visitor numbers has been attributed to a central government drive to encourage 'red tourism' that coincides with this year's 60th anniversary of the end of the Sino-Japanese war. 'Our museum has seen a marked increase in the number of visitors since March after a five-year national campaign for red tourism was kicked off early this year,' said tour guide Wang Jinxia . Ms Wang, a 36-year-old local who has been working at the museum since it opened, said most visitors were either members of the party or students. 'I have not had a weekend off since April 1 because the museum has seen so many visits organised by government units, state-owned companies and schools,' she said. Thirty routes and 100 sites around the country that played a prominent role in the nation's history between the establishment of the Communist Party in 1921 and the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 have been selected to take part in the red tourism drive, which seeks to boost patriotic education while promoting tourism in former revolutionary bases. Most are in impoverished areas left far behind in the rush to economic modernisation. A National Development and Reform Commission official was quoted by the People's Daily as saying the government-funded campaign had already contributed economically to red tourism sites, such as Jinggangshan, Yanan, Xibaipo and the Taihang mountains. The official said that about 20 million people visited the major red tourism sites in 13 provinces and regions last year - sites including Sichuan, Jiangxi, Hebei, Hunan and Shaanxi, and in recent years such tourism had earned up to 20 billion yuan a year. Shaoshan, the home town of the late chairman Mao Zedong , is attracting more than 5,000 visitors a day, while Jinggangshan, the base of communist party founding fathers Mao and Zhu De, is expected to reap a billion yuan from red tourism this year. According to a tourism chief in Jiangxi, more than two million people are expected to visit Jinggangshan this year, resulting in ticket sales of 80 million yuan - up almost 50 per cent on last year. Sichuan Tourism Administration director Liu Jie said his province, home to more than 100 revolutionary sites, expected revenue to increase by more than 20 per cent. Red tourism accounted for 14 per cent of the province's total tourism income last year, according to Xinhua. Yang Guohua , deputy chief of the Jiaozhuanghu tunnel museum, says it is one of the few red tourism sites near Beijing. 'As a red tourism site, it is not only a place for tourists but it also has educational functions to serve,' he said. 'With so many group tourists, we are sure to make a profit this year.' A new museum, nine times the size of the existing one, is being built at a cost of more than 10 million yuan and should be finished by the August 15 anniversary of the end of the Sino-Japanese war. One 27-year-old youth league member travelling with a group of steel factory colleagues said he did not know why they were visiting the tunnel. 'Although our factory is not far from here, it's my first time here. Frankly, I don't know exactly why we came to visit the tunnel. It must be a kind of educational tour,' he said. His view is shared by Ms Wang. 'I am not sure how much they can learn from such tours, which usually last no more than two hours,' she said. 'I heard many party members are required to write a study report linking the tour with the ongoing educational drive.' A recent report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences warned that red tourism, if not properly controlled, could easily become a government-sponsored waste of public funds. Several tour agencies in Beijing said trips to red tourism sites were exclusively for group visitors because not many individuals inquired about such destinations. An official at a red tourism site on the border of Hubei and Anhui provinces has also voiced concerns in state media about such tours. 'In the name of red tourism, these government tourist groups from all over the country have placed too much of an added economic burden on the localities, which are rather poor,' said one local official from the Dabie Mountain region. One mainland scholar suggests that those in charge of red tourism sites should place more attention on how to attract individual tourists. Ge Jianxiong , from Shanghai's Fudan University, said: 'The emphasis of the red tourism drive should be on tourism itself. If a site is not suitable for tourists, or is being over-emphasised because of its political nature, it will be difficult for it to survive.'