Increasing popularity of Hangzhou as a worldwide travel destination has boosted the city's economy

Hangzhou continues to go from strength-to-strength as a tourist destination for the world's travel culture-vultures and, as a consequence, its economy is booming.

Hangzhou continues to go from strength to strength as a tourist destination for the world’s travel culture vultures and, as a consequence, its economy is booming.

The capital, and most populous area of Zhejiang Province, has become one of the most visited cities in the world. The city received nearly 162.87 million tourists last year, a rise of 15.84 percent from 2016 and generated 304.13 billion yuan (US$47.86 billion) in revenue. These statistics were disclosed in two recent reports, which review some of the most important features of the industry.

An online service platform, Hangzhou Tourism Data Online, has also been launched. The website (www.hztdc.net) records and gives out live information on the city’s best rated hotels, congestion at certain tourist spots and profiles of tourists coming into Hangzhou.  

The platform revealed that 80 percent of tourists coming to Hangzhou were people aged under 30 years old. The number of visitors from other parts of Zhejiang Province dropped last year, although travelers from faraway destinations increased by 95.6 percent year on year.

Among the foreign tourists, people from East Asian countries accounted for 46.1 percent, while North American travelers were the second most frequent visitors with 13.8 percent market share.

Also, based on data retrieved from Google, the most searched tourist keywords related to Hangzhou were: West Lake, Leifeng Pagoda, Lingyin Temple and culture of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Shanghai Daily takes a closer look at the two reports and highlight some other Hangzhou tourism developments from 2017.

A public bike sharing terminal in Hangzhou

A bicycle-friendly city

The report indicates that the West Lake area is the most popular place for riding a bicycle than anywhere else in China.

Prior to the advent of the now prevalent dockless bike-share services, a public bike sharing system has been operating in Hangzhou for several years. Back in 2008, the city public transport group set up the first 62 terminals around local communities, bus stops, business districts and tourist spots.

Described by the BBC as the “world’s largest bike sharing system,” it had 86,800 bicycles with 3,737 terminals citywide by the end of last year. The highest volume of daily use was 473,000 in 2014.

To access a bike, tourists just need to download an app, pay a 200-yuan deposit and you get to rent a public bicycle free for an hour. To get a second hour you pay 1 yuan, while you are charged 3 yuan for a third hour.

Since 2017 the working hours of the system have been extended. You can now rent or return a bicycle at any time in the day.

The city itself is ideal for cycling outdoors. The gentle slopes, amidst the lush vegetation, near West Lake, offer a different experience to the usual road tracks. In 2016, a 3.5-kilometer bike lane was built in Binjiang District along the Qiantang River.

A woman scans the QR code on her mobile to pay for the bus fare.

A cashless city

In 2017, the percentage of online purchases for admission tickets in Hangzhou more than doubled from the previous year. Furthermore, 38.3 percent of travelers booked their hotels on the day of their arrival.

The rise of mobile apps and mobile payment has greatly improved the efficiency in booking. The local government has also facilitated the use of mobile payments in public transportation.

In June last year, all buses in Hangzhou were equipped with an extra terminal that accepts mobile payments, which saves a lot of trouble for tourists with no small change at hand. At the end of last year, the ticket barriers in some of the subway lines were also made mobile payment friendly.

Wechat Pay and Alipay, developed by Tencent and Alibaba separately, are the two dominant mobile payment tools in China. You will have to tie in your account with a bankcard to make the payment possible via your mobile or smart phone.

It was stated that 95 percent of supermarkets and grocery stores in Hangzhou allow mobile payments. Also 98 percent of taxi drivers use QR codes to enable a payment on Alipay.

A guesthouse overlooking the tea gardens in Hangzhou

A ‘slow’ city

Another important fact found in the report is that people spend more time in one place. In 2016, travelers in Hangzhou visited 1.69 tourist spots on average within one day. The number dropped to 1.6 in 2017.

The way people enjoy themselves has become more versatile at the same time. More people turn to theme parks, aquariums, zoos, museums and art galleries instead of regular sightseeing.

The Chinese-style guesthouse or minsu, is the new buzzword for tourists who avoid the hustle and bustle and prefer a more customized service than normal hotels.

Statistics from the reports show that people stay on average 2.3 days in one of those guesthouses, which is longer than the average days spent in a hotel.

There are around 3,000 guesthouses in Hangzhou, which generated 1 billion yuan in 2016. A typical guesthouse is usually a single two or three-story house with no more than 10 rooms, far away from city center and many of them have been designed and renovated with a strong personal taste.

And the price for a standard double room per night is between budget hotel chains and five-star hotels. Most of them offer home-style meals. Some of the guesthouse restaurants even outshine their lodging services and are open to non-guests as well.

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