Beijing reaches out with arts, culture

An inbound tourism conference held at a former iron furnace on the outskirts of the capital displayed Beijing’s unique style when it comes to heritage and visitor attractions

BEIJING is placing arts, culture and heritage at the heart of a growing campaign to attract business from international organisers as the capital competes alongside other destinations as the inbound travel market rapidly returns to China.

Ten tour operators from overseas who bring groups to China were presented with accolades at the 2024 Beijing Inbound Tourism Development Conference, May 23-26. They were among 260 delegates at the event including global travel agencies, district tourism and culture bureaus from across China, and overseas destination offices located in Beijing.

Acrobats wow delegates with diabolo ball skills at the opening ceremony

The capital’s modern and traditional arts were highlighted during the opening ceremony, with performances ranging from acrobatics and Peking Opera to western classical music and contemporary dance.

Heritage sites such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City were highlighted along with modern venues such as the Beijing Arts Centre and National Centre for Performing Arts.

Strategic co-operation agreements were also signed between Beijing Municipal Culture and Tourism Bureau with Air China and Beijing Capital International Airport, and between Chinese and overseas companies. Officials said the conference marked a step forward with the capital forming partnerships with domestic and global travel operators as the visitor economy showed rapid signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The event was held at “No.3 Blast Furnace” – a unique venue in the Shougang Park in west Beijing, which was once an area of heavy industry before power stations, steelworks and factories, responsible for much of the capital’s pollution in previous years, ceased operations under efforts to clean-up the environment.

A former iron furnace facility has been turned into an events venue

Factory plants were closed or moved beyond the city while Shougang was transformed into one of the sites for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. The area’s industrial structures have since been preserved as unique venues and now house start-up companies, hotels, restaurants and visitor attractions.

Sima Hong, the vice-mayor of Beijing, told the conference that the capital would use the event to increase contact with the global tourism industry. Beijing plans to bolster resource sharing, encourage visitor exchanges with international travel companies, enhance cooperation, and promote “premium tourism” itineraries.

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Among the delegations were members of the United States Tour Operators Association. USOTA president and CEO Terry Dale gave a keynote address at the conference emphasising the travel industry’s strengths in fostering international ties and cultural understanding.

International delegates toured Shougang Park’s former industrial sites as well as visiting the area’s Winter Olympics ski jump. Excursions were also made to the Great Wall at Simatai and the nearby Gubei Water Town. 

Travel organisers from Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the US covering leisure and business events attended the conference in addition to pre-and post-event tours.

The Beijing Tourism Overseas Promotion Partner Program has been operating since 2018 and it is understood the scheme has been kick-started following the easing of pandemic restrictions. Nearly 60 international inbound tourism partners are active in the promotion partnership.

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