Tourists take selfies at a scenic spot in Xiangyang, Hubei province, on March 18. (Photo: China Daily)
Hubei province, with its large concentration of top cultural attractions and magnificent natural locations in Central China, has gradually reopened after two months of travel restrictions and a lockdown against COVID-19, as the area is now attracting a large number of local tourists.
With the novel coronavirus steadily receding, more than a quarter of A-level tourism spots among a total of 421 in Hubei have reopened.
Most of them are scenic locations with open spaces. They are located in cities such as Xiangyang, Yichang and Huangshi. The provincial capital of Wuhan is not included yet in the list of those cities, the culture and tourism department of Hubei said.
The most popular destinations in the province include Mount Guifeng, Mount Mingfeng and the Ancient Longzhong scenic area where the historical figure of Zhuge Liang once lived in seclusion for more than 10 years.
They also include the largest cluster of Tang Dynasty (618-907)-style architecture in China and Huangshi National Mine Park, said Qunar, an online travel service provider.
"The cities of Xiangyang, Huanggang and Huangshi in Hubei have shown the highest demand for travelers," said Qunar vice-president Gou Zhipeng.
On March 21 and 22, the first weekend after the lifting of restrictions in some cities in Hubei, the admission ticket reservation volume of some sightseeing spots surged 25 times over the level of the previous weekend, Qunar said.
For tourism attractions with a low risk of infection, they will gradually resume orderly operations. Areas with medium to high risks from infection will remain closed, the local government said.
Tourists need to buy entrance tickets and book advanced reservations online. They will need to bring their identification cards to the tourism areas. They will also need to wear surgical masks and have temperatures taken before they can go sightseeing.
Shennongjia Nature Reserve, a forestry area in the province, reopened last week. Before May 1, travelers will be able to visit the seven scenic spots in the park at no charge.
On Monday, the scenic areas of the Three Gorges Dam, the largest water conservation project in China, were also reopened. But they will only be open to those who hold green health codes, which means they are healthy and have had no contact with any infected or suspected coronavirus patients. No more than 5,000 visitors per day are allowed in the area.
Before reopening, many tourist attractions in Hubei started online promotions via livestreaming platforms, uploading short videos and interacting with travelers online on multiple social media platforms.
Starting from April 8, Wuhan Tianhe International Airport will resume all domestic passenger and cargo flights except to and from Beijing. Other airports across the province resumed their flights from last Sunday, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.
Sales of the flights have been extremely popular, with seats on multiple flights being sold out quickly. Most economy class seats carry full prices with no discounts.
"Since the resumption of flights in Hubei, sales have shown some trends that are different from usual. Sales of business class seats have been better than economy class, since some passengers consider roomy business class first for safety reasons," said Lan Xiang, vice-president of Qunar.
China Securities researcher He Yanqing said the tourism market will need a quarter to two quarters of recovery time to restore operations to pre-epidemic levels.
"Since late February, the epidemic control situation started to get better in China. In the meantime, the coronavirus is spreading fast globally. Traveling abroad has declined and the affected period is unpredictable. Over a period of time, the growth of China's tourism industry will focus on the domestic market," He said.