Chinese seniors indulge Soviet-era nostalgia with Russian 'red tourism'
Russian Federal State Statistics Service showed a total of 204,400 Chinese citizens visited Russia in the first half of this year, up 30% y-o-y.
As China and Russia forge closer ties with more diverse cooperation, such as sending troops to each other's parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this year, more Chinese people, especially those getting on in years, are visiting Russia.
Chinese senior's nostaligia for communism a capitalist opportunity for Russia
Statistics from the Russian Federal State Statistics Service showed that a total of 204,400 Chinese citizens visited Russia in the first half of this year, up 30 percent compared with same period last year.
The Russian government and travel agencies have begun to promote "red route" tours toward Chinese travelers, featuring historical sites with a communist connection such as Red Square and Lenin's former home.
Several travel agencies in Russia have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the country, with many claiming that the number of holidaymakers contacting them has more than tripled this year.
A tour guide from the Moscow-based Meijialun Tourism Company surnamed Tian said that the company has received new tour groups from China every day since June.
"Many of the tour groups were composed of seniors born in the 1940s and 1950s, and I guided three such groups in the past week," Tian told the Global Times.
Many of those seniors feel strongly connected to the Soviet Union, so the company added a special route for them, which includes Victory Square in Moscow, the former residence of Lenin and some military museums displaying weapons used by the Soviet military, Tian said.
Gao Lei, whose aunt went to Russia with a tour group in August, told the Global Times that her aunt could not stop talking about her experience after she came back home to Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.
"She kept telling me that she grew up listening to Soviet songs and reading Soviet literature. Memories of the past and a flood of emotions come to her when she sat in a Russian music hall listening to those songs sang by a Russian chorus," Gao said.
Chinese "red tourism" has been a phenomenon since late 2013, but has gained popularity only this year, according to another tour guide surnamed Wang from a Chinese travel agency based in St. Petersburg.
Wang's agency arranged a 10-day "red route" tour in 2014 including visiting several former Soviet Union universities, World War II heritage sites and the Central Museum of the Revolution.
"Most Chinese tourists choosing the 'red route' are retirees, and I take about four or five such groups each month this year, but took only an average of one last year," Wang said.
Both Tian and Wang believe that the devaluing ruble, the visa-free policy for group tours and the 70th anniversary of WWII victory have contributed to the growing number of Chinese tourists heading to Russia.
"Now Chinese only need to spend half of last year's price for a week-long tour in Russia," Tian said.
A red tourism exchange agreement was signed by the government of Hunan Province and the government of Russia's Ulyanovsk region in June to boost tourism and economic cooperation between the two regions, according to the website of the government of Ulyanovsk.
Shaoshan, in Hunan, is the hometown of Mao Zedong, a founding father of the People's Republic of China, and Ulyanovsk is the hometown of Vladimir Lenin.
During the signing ceremony, China and Russia each introduced five new routes for red tourism to the international market.
Ulyanovsk offered an eight-day tour with a visit to the motherland of Lenin that stopped in Moscow, Ulyanovsk-Kazan, St Petersburg. In the grand hall of the Lenin memorial, tourists could also participate in a ceremony in which the seniors wear symbolic red scarves and "join" the Young Pioneers, a communist-era youth organization.
A total of 426,000 Chinese tourists visited Russia in 2014, up 10 percent than 2013. The Russian government plans to attract 1 million Chinese tourists each year in the next two years, and plans to further expand the visa-free policy for Chinese tourists, according to Russian media reports.
A Russian tourism office is planned to open this September in Beijing and another will open next year in Shanghai, according to Russia's Ministry of Culture.
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