• July 21, 2024

China: ‘Ice city’ of Harbin delights visitors, brings tourism bonanza | Travel

The “ice city” of Harbin, the snowy capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, attracted a record number of visitors over the New Year holiday, many of them drawn by the grand and intricate ice sculptures of its annual Ice and Snow Festival.

Visitors walk past ice sculptures at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China (Photo by REUTERS/Liz Lee)

The towering ice structures, illuminated in a dazzling array of lights at night, are built from ice blocks harvested from the frozen Songhua River nearby.

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This year’s festival helped draw 3.05 million visitors to Harbin during the three-day New Year holiday that ended on Monday, generating 5.91 billion yuan ($826 million) in tourism revenue, state media agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.

Those numbers exceeded the number of pre-COVID visits in 2019.

Growth in the city’s accommodation and catering sectors during the holiday period more than doubled from 2019, local newspaper Harbin Daily reported. The city’s tourism department attributed the growth to Harbin’s increasing popularity on social media platforms, Xinhua said.

The tourism boom occurred as China’s services activity expanded at the fastest pace in five months in December, lifting optimism in the sector to a three-month high.

Harbin’s authorities have rolled out activities to attract tourists including live performances and concerts, theme parks and fireworks displays, as well as improving dining, accommodation and shopping services, Xinhua said.

The Ice and Snow Festival park received 163,200 visitors over the New Year holidays, over five times more than a year ago, with almost 40% of those holiday makers visiting on New Year’s Eve, Heilongjiang provincial television said in a social media post.

That generated 46.18 million yuan in income, nearly six times higher than a year ago, the provincial TV station said.

Heilongjiang welcomed 6.619 million tourists over the three-day period, nearly triple from a year ago, producing tourism revenue of 6.920 billion yuan, almost five times the year ago figure, the station reported.

The city government announced a special public holiday, the Ice and Snow Holiday, for Friday, to coincide with the festival’s official opening.

The surge in domestic winter tourism has benefited local companies in the sector. Shares of ChangBai Mountain Tourism Co, a travel service company based in northeast China, have soared by 26% in Shanghai trading since the last week of December, beating benchmark shares.

($1 = 7.1558 yuan)

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