China recently unveiled its cultural development plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, stressing that culture is not only the soul of a country, but also the soul of national governance.
Among the guideline's main goals is the deep integration of culture and tourism to create a unique experience centered on Chinese culture for travelers.
The document said that to achieve the goal, it's important to improve the mechanism that supports such integration, as well as increase the role of culture in tourism development, provide diversified tourism products and optimize the environment for the development of the sector.
The plan has elicited a positive response from the domestic tourism industry, which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 epidemic.
"During the 14th Five-Year Plan period, the integration of culture and tourism will enter a more substantive stage of development," said Zhan Dongmei, an associate research fellow at the China Tourism Academy.
Zhan said that she expects the per capita travel rate and tourist visits to continue to rise over the course of the 14th Five-Year Plan and that the travel industry and government authorities should work together to satisfy the diverse demands of tourists.
"Good tourism offerings should focus on the essence of culture, such as tourist experiences. It's better to give tourists the offerings they need," Zhan said.
Wu Liyun, an associate professor at the Beijing International Studies University's China Academy of Culture and Tourism, agreed.
"The deep integration of tourism and cultural elements, including symbols and stories, will not only make tourism more appealing, but it will also allow more visitors to learn of the beauty of Chinese culture and increase their confidence in it," she said.
"The plan is a boon for the domestic tourism industry. The development of new businesses will not only increase the competitiveness of the tourism sector and bring new vitality, but also attract more talent and expand the sector."
According to Wu, the plan will also help solve problems related to policies hindering the development of the sector.
"The plan can boost the tourism sector's development by means of innovative content, and boost the creation of high-quality, diversified and attractive tourism offerings," Wu said.
She said that operators will be able to offer more job opportunities and have the chance to better themselves due to the integration of an assortment of related enterprises, as well as through the development of new businesses in the sector.
Wu said cultural and creative products and immersive performances are just two vehicles being used to lure young travelers and boost local tourism sectors.
For example, blind boxes produced by the Henan Museum have been a big hit, and allow buyers to experience the excavation process by "digging" in the lump of earth contained in the box with a small trowel, in search of a replica of an antique from the museum's collection.
In addition, popsicles shaped like ancient buildings or cultural heritage are popular with visitors at the many scenic areas and museums selling them across the country.
Camping has become more popular since the epidemic because it allows tourists to embrace nature and enjoy themselves with family and friends without fear of lockdowns. Wu said camping can be combined with multiple businesses, including those offering campground accommodations, dining and entertainment, playing an active role in driving local tourism development.
Scripted murder mysteries are yet another popular activity among young Chinese.
"Some scenic areas and hotels have tried to combine murder mysteries with their offerings to prolong the length of stay of their visitors. This can help single-day tour destinations become overnight ones," she said.