- Posted by Newsdesk
- On 4th May 2016
- china, idols, korea, show, south korea, travel, tv
As the numbers of Chinese people travelling overseas continues to increase rapidly, there is a growing hunger amongst increasingly-experienced and globally-aware tourists to seek out locations beyond the ‘photo-opportunity’ destinations that appear in guidebooks.
[tweetable] Tapping into the growing wanderlust of China’s expanding consumer class, a wave of travel-related reality shows have begun to appear on Chinese television [/tweetable] in recent years, thereby exposing hundreds of millions of potential tourists to locations they may have not previously considered visiting. Building upon the formula made popular by 2013’s Where Are We Going, Dad? (Baba Qu N’ar?) – and its original South Korean counterpart – programmes such as Grandpas Over Flowers (Hua Yung Ye Ye) and Luyu’s Present (Lu Yu De Li Wu) have starred prominent Chinese celebrities touring a number of glamorous overseas locations on a modest budget, forcing them to confront many of the same challenges as their less-wealthy compatriots may face when travelling.
Similarly to the Chinese custom of retracing the footsteps of prominent Chinese politicians, poets and other historical figures overseas, this primetime exposure to new destinations generates significant interest amongst domestic viewers who become inspired to visit places made famous by a new generation of Chinese ‘idols’. Moreover, the ability to instantly share pictures taken on such celebrity ‘pilgrimages’ on social media only further galvanises fans to add these new destinations to their itineraries.
The impact of such exposure in films and TV programmes for overseas destinations has been enormous. Spain, a country that struggled to attract the same number of Chinese tourists as other European destinations, became a must-see destination overnight after featuring prominently in travel-focused reality show Diva’s Hit the Road (Hua Er Yu Shao Nian), which was broadcast to an audience of 59 million in 2014. Compensating for the lack of interest amongst Chinese tourists to take beach holidays halfway around the world – when cheaper options are available closer by in Thailand and Malaysia – the programme was able to leverage the star power of its celebrity cast to expose its vast Chinese audience to a wide variety of cultural activities on offer to tourists in Spain. Not only did the show feature prominent locations such as Madrid and Barcelona, but smaller towns such as Cádiz and Carmona also featured heavily as Chinese celebrities were shown taking flamenco classes and attending bullfights.
In the months following the programme’s broadcast, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced during a trip to China that his government would be cutting the application time for Spanish tourist visas for Chinese nationals to just 48 hours. This streamlining came at a time when Spain was looking to capitalise on rapidly growing numbers of tourist arrivals from China. Such high-profile political events have often been used as a platform to publicise improved tourist visa policies for Chinese nationals; President Obama revealed the United States’ introduction of ten-year multi-entry visas for Chinese citizens at the 2014 APEC summit in Beijing, whilst Xi Jinping’s state visit to the United Kingdom coincided with the British government’s announcement of its plans to extend the validity of tourist visas for Chinese nationals to two years.
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