By Zhao Shan, People's Daily
Bullet trains are once again driving an upsurge in China's tourism industry as a number of new high-speed railways have been put into operation this summer and further shortened the travel time between cities.
According to the recent half-month booking statistics released by Chinese leading online leisure travel company Tuniu, the number of tourists taking high-speed railway as the major means of transportation surged by 132 percent from a month ago. The search volume for high-speed train tours more than tripled on another online travel platform Mafengwo.
Online travel agency Tongcheng recorded an 80-percent monthly rise in the booking volume of high-speed train tour packages in June, and over half of the agency's customers said high-speed trains were a prioritized choice for them and high-speed train tours would embrace faster growth.
A high-speed railway linking Zhengzhou, central China's Henan province and southwest China's Chongqing municipality was opened in late June, shortening the trip between the two cities from eight hours to four.
The line connects the southwestern, central and northern regions of China and crosses a number of tourist attractions, including the Shaolin Temple and Wuhou Memorial Temple in Henan, the current location of Three Kingdoms-era (220-280 AD) strategist Zhuge Liang's hometown Longzhong and the Shennongjia National Park in central China's Hubei province, as well as the Small Three Gorges scenic area and Ciqikou ancient town in Chongqing.
Chongqing's Wushan county, which sits along the high-speed railway, reported over 2.1 million tourist arrivals in just half a month after the railway was put into operation, up 49.7 percent year on year.
Spur-of-the-moment trips or mini-breaks on weekends or holidays are popular among Chinese tourists nowadays, and high-speed railways have contributed a lot to this trend. Bullet trains, which are convenient and comfortable, provide people an opportunity to go on an in-depth exploration of their destinations in a short journey time.
Recently, the world's first railway loop circling a desert was formally put into operation in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Stretching eastward from Hotan city to Ruoqiang county along the southern edge of the Taklimakan, the world's second-largest shifting-sand desert, the railway is an artery of China's western railway network, an important part of Xinjiang railways, and a fast channel linking southern Xinjiang and other parts of China.
It is a historic railway for many counties in the region to end their history of no train access. It carries passengers to cross the Taklimakan and tour the ruins of ancient Niya city and other places that were once unreachable in the past. The bookings of related train tours have been surging recently, according to Tuniu.
Feng Rao, head of Mafengwo’s tourism research institute, told People's Daily that the constantly improved high-speed railway network in China has significantly reduced travel time and thus expanded tourists' radius of trips.
It not only brings more possibilities for short-distance travel, but also will tremendously promote the tourism industry in regions along the railways, Feng added.
High-speed railways, vitalizing both inter-provincial and short-distance travels, have become a driving force for tourism development. Many tourist destinations along high-speed railways have rolled out measures to stimulate tourism.
In Hubei and Chongqing, high-speed train passengers can get free tickets or a 50-percent discount on tickets for multiple famous scenic spots; the ancient city of Xiangyang in Hubei unveiled night economy-themed tourist routes to attract visitors; culture and tourism departments in east China’s Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces, as well as Shanghai jointly released a list of tourism destinations along the high-speed railways in the Yangtze River Delta region.