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New zones help push nighttime economy

102 areas add to efforts to boost consumption in cities after sunset

By LI YINGXUE | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-02-28 07:55


The nighttime economy, spanning the dining, tourism and leisure sectors, has emerged as a new driving force for economic growth nationwide. Regions are swiftly developing unique nighttime economic hubs tailored to various industries.

In line with the State Council's measures to boost tourism consumption and enhance industry quality, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently announced the third batch of China's National Night Culture and Tourism Consumption Agglomeration Zones.

The list features 102 areas, including Longfu Temple Cultural Street in Beijing's Dongcheng district, Tianjin's aircraft carrier theme park and Shenyang's 1905 Cultural and Creative Park in Liaoning.

During a ceremony to launch the 2024 National Spring Festival Cultural and Tourism Consumption Month event on Jan 25, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's industry development department awarded certificates to representatives from these hubs.

The ministry is urging provincial-level cultural and tourism authorities to work with other government departments in places where the agglomeration areas are situated to advance their development.

Their goal is to enhance the range of cultural and tourism offerings, promote the fusion of culture and tourism and foster new consumer experiences.

Furthermore, they are encouraging each agglomeration area to organize activities that benefit consumers, improve the quality of nighttime services, ensure safety and create a pleasant environment for consumption.

The 2023 China Nighttime Economy Development Report by the China Tourism Academy reveals that nighttime tourism raked in 1.57 trillion yuan ($218 billion) in revenue last year. With 95 percent of the surveyed people showing interest in nighttime excursions, it's clear that evening adventures are becoming more popular.

An official from the ministry's industry development department has stated that they will focus on strengthening policy support and refining assistance measures to illuminate China's nighttime culture and tourism hubs.

Song Yangyang, vice-president of the Institute of Creative Industry Technology at the Renmin University of China, believes that promoting nighttime culture and tourism through agglomeration zones or industrial hubs is crucial because they provide an array of cultural and tourism experiences, meeting people's increasing desire for a better lifestyle.

He sees nighttime culture and tourism as vital components of modern cities, extending cultural and tourism activities beyond traditional time and space boundaries.

To address the sameness in nighttime consumption, Song said brands should offer diverse experiences focusing on leisure, entertainment and relaxation. By blending creativity and technology, they can create innovative nighttime experiences centered around cultural and spiritual enrichment, he said.

Song emphasized the importance of incorporating regional flavors into nighttime consumption. He recommends utilizing local cultural resources to develop products tailored to different seasons, audiences and cultural preferences.

Lyu Fengyong, a researcher at the National Academy of Economic Strategy, China Academy of Social Sciences, noted that nighttime tourism environments offer something special. They have a unique atmosphere with captivating lighting and colors, something people can't experience during the day.

"The deep darkness of night and the vibrant lights create a sense of fantasy and transcendence," he explained. "They allow visitors to temporarily escape the noise and rush of daytime life, immersing themselves in a moment of calm and spiritual connection."

A survey report from the Ministry of Commerce reveals that over 60 percent of consumer spending now happens during the night. Sales between 6 pm and 10 pm in major shopping centers make up more than half of daily sales, making nighttime the prime time for consumption.

A growing industry

China's nighttime economy has seen robust growth over the past two years, creating not only new consumer markets but also providing a broader platform for the cultural and creative industries.

The year 2019 was dubbed the "Year of Nighttime Tourism" by the media. That year, the State Council released guidelines encouraging commercial districts and themed streets to feature culture, tourism and leisure activities. This included extending operating hours and establishing late-night zones, 24-hour convenience stores and unique dining areas.

The guidelines highlighted the importance of investing in creating nighttime spaces and agglomeration zones where conditions permit.

In July 2021, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism launched the first phase of the National Night Culture and Tourism Consumption Agglomeration Zone project to boost nighttime cultural and tourism activities.

Four months later, they revealed the first 120 areas, including famous spots like the Bund area in Shanghai and the Jianghan Road pedestrian street in Wuhan, Hubei province.

These zones were chosen based on specific criteria, requiring clear boundaries and a focus on cultural and tourism industries. Tourist sites needed to offer frequent nighttime tours, with at least 40 percent of facilities or areas open during the night.

By August 2022, the second phase added 123 areas, including the Wangfujing commercial area in Beijing and the Wuzhen scenic area in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. These areas mainly comprised historical districts, cultural parks and commercial streets.

Since the project began, 345 areas have been designated as nighttime agglomeration zones nationwide. In the past year alone, zones that were part of the first two phases saw a significant increase in nighttime visitors, reaching 3.12 billion, a year-on-year increase of 56.4 percent.

Researcher Zhao Min from the Pengpai Institute analyzed the 345 zones and found that the majority of them are tourism resorts, making up over one-fifth. Following closely are historical areas and leisure streets, as well as historical cultural cities.

Comparing the lists, it's clear that there's been a notable increase in tourism resorts and urban leisure areas, possibly reflecting a growing interest in outdoor activities. Zhao believes that commercial main streets not only imply shopping but also cater to various needs such as square dancing, sports, fitness and socializing.

Aside from historical sites, commercial streets and new city centers are crucial for nightlife. Zhao emphasized the importance of improving transportation and adding cultural elements to consumers' journey home after activities, and also stressed the need to support workers in ensuring nighttime economy security.

During the just-concluded Spring Festival holiday, the designated nighttime cultural and tourism consumption areas saw bustling crowds and a great deal of spending. These areas recorded a total of 98.5 million nighttime visitors, marking a significant 58.3 percent increase year-on-year, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

"In 2024, with the sustained consolidation and enhancement of China's economic recovery, the cultural industry will maintain rapid growth, and the tourism industry will flourish," Ma Li, deputy director of the industry development department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, stated in an interview with People's Daily Online.

Ma also said that this year, the ministry will vigorously promote cultural and tourism consumption and drive the innovative development of nationally designated nighttime cultural and tourism consumption agglomeration areas.

Zhao Yijing, who leads the nighttime tourism research team at the China Tourism Academy, suggested that this year, consumers should transition from simply touring cities at night to experiencing nighttime activities within cities.

"We shouldn't just recreate the past; we should also look ahead and create vibrant urban nightlife," Zhao Yijing said.

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