Chinese students and young people are flocking to military-themed attractions - theme-parks, former battle sites, and military museums - during the summer holidays, as the government promotes red tourism for patriotic education.
The recent development of China's military, including its domestic-made aircraft carriers, further boosts the interest of the public to know about military affairs, experts noted.
The visits to military-themed tourist areas saw a 30 percent increase in July compared to the same period last year. Reservations doubled since last week and will peak during Army Day, the 91st anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), online travel agency Lümama told the Global Times.
Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Qingdao and Nanchang topped the lists. The most favored military sites are Tianjin's Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park, featuring the retired Kiev aircraft carrier, and Nanjing National Defense Park, featuring the history of China's Diaoyu Islands, according to Lümama.
"The public has long been intrigued by China's military," Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the Global Times.
The development of the country's domestically built aircraft carriers is driving the popularity of aircraft carrier-related attractions, Song said.
China's first domestically built aircraft carrier completed sea trials in May. The second domestically built carrier is reportedly under construction.
Military-themed tourist attractions are most favored by families and children, accounting for more than 60 percent of visitors, an increase of 13 percentage points over last year. Most visitors are in their 20s and 30s, Lümama said.
Camps for kids
Unlike sightseeing, military-themed camps organized by Tan Edong, a former marine, offer short-term training targeting students.
Tan told the Global Times that about 3,000 students join Tan's camp every month for short-term training. In recent years, increasing numbers of students are choosing military-themed camps and the market is promising.
"Many parents send their children to my camp in an attempt to exercise their bodies, change their bad habits, and strengthen their self-discipline," Tan said.
As Army's Day approaches, Tan's camp based in Hubei Province's Enshi, which also has branches in Hubei's Wuhan and Yunnan Province's Lijiang, has prepared special military-themed activities for participants.
Participants have chances to use a gun, and ride in a helicopter and a tank. The training programs are simulations of a real military camp. The price of these programs ranges from 1,800 yuan ($265) to nearly 10,000 yuan, Tan said.
Military-themed tourism attractions are a form of tourism that features sightseeing and allow tourists to experience things, Li Mingde, former vice president of the Beijing Tourism Society, told the Global Times.
Military-themed tourism has been widely supported by the government for the purpose of national defense and patriotism education. Over the years, red tourism, including military-themed tourism, has become a major part of the tourism market, Li said.
China's Ministry of Finance spent 1.55 billion yuan ($228.3 million) to support red tourism in 2016.
The funds were mainly used to promote themed tours to historical sites which educate tourists on the history of the Communist Party of China, and on the renovation of such sites.
Local governments and PLA units were asked to organize educational activities as Army Day approaches, including visits to memorial halls of revolutionary history, performances, contests, and military camp open days, according to a circular recently issued by the Ministry of Veteran Affairs and the Political Work Department of the Central Military Commission.
Both defense awareness and skills are key to the nurture of military talent, Song pointed out, suggesting museums catch up with the newest military developments, offering the most up-to-date exhibits which will further spark the interest of the public in military affairs and boost their knowledge of defense issues.
The development of technology is also boosting military-themed tourism, experts said. Some military equipment can be experienced by visitors by using VR technology, Song noted.