Chinese tourists show support for Xinjiang as interest in travel to region at centre of diplomatic furore surges
- Indignant Chinese travellers show support for northwest region accused of using forced Uygur labour in cotton-production for major fashion brands
- Guest house bookings rise 60 per cent month-on-month after labels H&M, Nike, Adidas, Burberry and Gap raise concerns over human rights
As a result, the likes of H&M, Nike, Adidas, Gap and Burberry suddenly found themselves reckoning with the full force of China’s state-owned media, consumers and social media users. They were not happy. Some brands (Hugo Boss) even reversed course and issued statements of support for Xinjiang cotton, so desperate were they to hold on to their slice of the mainland’s lucrative market.
And then China’s tourists got involved, showing their support for Xinjiang and its cotton by going online and searching for trips to the region.
“Travel to Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region gained instant popularity among Chinese tourists on Thursday […] after some foreign clothing brands announced their refusal to use cotton produced in the region,” state-owned tabloid Global Times reported on March 25.
Citing statistics provided by domestic travel platform Mafengwo, the paper reported that searches for “where to go in Xinjiang this April” surged by 275 per cent in the 24 hours preceding 2pm on March 25. “Pre-bookings of guesthouses in Xinjiang rose 60 per cent on Wednesday and Thursday compared with last month, China’s Airbnb, Tujia, told the Global Times.
On Chinese social media platform Weibo, many users expressed their willingness to travel to Xinjiang and showed the hashtag ‘I support Xinjiang cotton’,” the report stated.
According to the paper, Xinjiang is anticipating a tourism boom. “Known for its grand natural beauty, Xinjiang received more than 158 million tourists in 2020 despite the coronavirus, and the regional government said it expected to receive more than 200 million this year and 400 million by 2025.” That’s a lot of visitors for a province with a population of just 25 million!
Exactly how many of those potential 400 million visitors will hail from overseas is anyone’s guess, but we’re willing to bet that demand for Xinjiang holidays has dwindled among those in the West. In a somewhat unscientific Twitter poll, followers of the Telegraph Travel account were asked whether recent developments had made them less likely to visit China. Of the 270 people who responded, 87 per cent answered “yes”.
In a recent article, British newspaper The Telegraph asked, “Should we all boycott travel to China when the pandemic is over?”, reporting that “China desperately wants tourists – both for their hard currency and to show the world the country belongs to the global community.” However, the implication here seems to be that China desperately wants tourists from the West, which doesn’t quite add up. According to the China Global Television Network, 73.6 per cent of inbound arrivals in 2019 came from elsewhere in Asia, compared with 12.5 per cent from Europe, 7.9 per cent from the Americas, 1.9 per cent from Oceania and 1.4 per cent from Africa. By market share alone, Western travellers simply don’t have the clout of their Asian counterparts.
Similar calls to boycott the 2008 Summer Olympics, also hosted by Beijing, came to nothing. Now, as then, allegations of human rights abuses abound and bureaucratic mud is being slung. Through it all, domestic tourists will continue to support domestic destinations, even if they are alone – well, if being in the company of millions of compatriots counts as such – in doing so.
At the Tokyo Olympics, it’s not all fun and Games
“The start of the torch relay […] marked a big step forward for the Tokyo games, sending a bold message that they would definitely go ahead this summer after the Covid-19 pandemic forced their postponement by a year,” reported the Financial Times. “But it also exposed the organisers’ conundrum: the more they respond to public demands for Covid-19 safety, the less is left for anybody to enjoy.”
Case in point is the “no cheering, only clapping” rule in place for not only the relay but the sporting events, too. This, as well as a ban on foreign crowd attendees, seems certain to ensure the Tokyo Olympics will be an unforgettable, if quiet, affair.
Srinagar’s tulip garden hopes to become ‘global tourist destination’
Currently, only 25 per cent of its tulips are in bloom because of cold weather. The rest will begin blossoming as temperatures rise.
“We aim to make the garden not only an attraction for domestic tourists but a global tourist destination,” commented a local official.
They’ll probably have to wait until at least spring 2022 for foreign tourism numbers to bloom.