Capitalizing on its rich snow and ice resources and friendly environment, Harbin, capital of Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, is promoting an all-season tourism drive, turning its natural advantages into strengths for its growth and developing tourism into an industry capable of generating 100 billion yuan in annual business revenue.
The city is aiming to build itself into an international tourism city known for its ice and snow culture by 2035, according to local policymakers. The 14th standing committee of the city’s Party committee set the goal at its ninth plenary meeting in late December.
To this end, Harbin is holding ice and snow-related activities this winter, covering sports, arts, fashion, tourism, culture and retail. They are scheduled for November to April 2021, according to the city government.
The city is an important destination for China’s winter tourism, said Li Geng, deputy director of Harbin’s culture, broadcasting and tourism bureau. While ensuring COVID-19 prevention and control, local authorities are taking multiple actions to shore up the cultural and tourism industries, Li said.
To lure more travellers, the city is giving out coupons valued at 48 million yuan ($7.34 million) in total. Travel agencies meeting specific requirements are eligible for government financial support.
A highlight of the activities, the 33rd Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo opened its doors on Dec 20. At the expo, visitors can appreciate some 50 groups of snow sculptures that use more than 90,000 cubic meters of snow.
The main sculpture is a huge dragon, 33 meters high and 116 meters long. Nearly 100 sculptors spent nine days completing it, said, local officials.
Dragon is a symbol of power, wisdom and good luck in traditional Chinese culture. It showcases the designers’ expectation that the country will be stronger and more prosperous, officials added.
Tourists can get up close to the sculptures and take part in ice and snow sports such as sledging and ice skating.
Starting from Dec 30, tickets to the expo have been discounted, each priced at 100 yuan, much less than the 220 yuan they are normally.
The move is to adapt to the changes in pandemic prevention and control, the expo’s organizers said, adding that more favourable policies will be launched in the future, including a ticket package.
In addition, the 27th National Snow Sculpture Contest was held at the expo, attracting 17 teams of over 50 participants from all over the country.
When night falls, an ideal option for tourists is to go to Harbin Ice and Snow World, a dazzling park built with ice and snow. Covering an area of 600,000 square meters, the 22nd Harbin Ice and Snow World features six major scenic areas.
“We strive to give tourists a visual feast integrating spectacular ice buildings and diverse lighting effects,” said the park’s planner Wang Xiaoyu.
To demonstrate the cultural connotations of the Belt & Road Initiative, this year’s event exhibits a series of ice sculptures modeled on famous buildings in BRI-involved countries such as the Viru Gate in Estonia and the Bojnice Castle in Slovakia.
“It’s really splendid. I must take more pictures and share them with my family members,” said Wang Fang, a visitor from Guangdong province. “I will recommend the park to them. The landscape alone is worth the trip.”
Visitors can also experience a 400-meter ice slide, which has been one of the most popular activities for years, said, local officials.
“We have rolled out discounted tickets this winter, each priced at 100 yuan, down about 65 per cent from previous years,” said Kong Qingbin, Chairman of Harbin Ice & Snow World.
“We will continue to offer tourists high-quality services and experiences,” Kong added.
In addition, Harbin Polarland’s second-phase project, a Polar Park is scheduled to open on Jan 22, 2021. Among the 100 largest investment projects in Heilongjiang province, the park, located in the city’s Songbei New Area, costs nearly 800 million yuan and will cover some 33,000 sq m.
It will be China’s largest polar-themed park, which will promote a new concept of its kind, featuring variety shows that will integrate entertainment, interaction, experiences, research and education, local officials said.
On Dec 25, the annual Harbin Songhua River Ice and Snow Carnival returned with upgraded facilities, larger areas and better services.
This is a free theme park built to encourage people to participate in ice and snow activities and bring them joy during the winter, said, local officials.
The park has five areas based on different activities. Tourists can enjoy the winter view of the Songhua River while engaging in different games and activities such as tugs of war, snow volleyball and curling.
The park received 45,000 visits on its opening day
Forthcoming, snow-sculpting masters from around the world will gather in the Sun Island Park for the Harbin International Snow Sculpture Competition, while the city’s Zhaoling Park will host an ice lantern fair.
Rich winter tourism products in Harbin also include winter fishing in Changling Lake and tours to Snowman Harbor in the Harbin Bund and century-old Central Street that is known for Western-style buildings and Russian restaurants.