Shanghai is pinning big hopes on next month’s World Expo 2010 to create a tourism boom, and catapult the country’s financial capital into the league of world’s great tourism cities.
During the past weekend, crowds of locals and tourists alike have flocked to Shanghai’s riverside promenade, the Bund, to witness its reopening and rebirth in time for the Expo, which is being held from 1 May to 31 October.
China is the first developing nation to host the World Expo and officials hope the event will prove a springboard for bigger and better things.
The city government has already paid more than $700 million on renovating the Bund riverfront, as well investing $45 billion to upgrade transport and infrastructure.
“We are still actively working on activities to attract 70 million visitors and we remain positive on reaching this target,” Connie Cheng, vice director of the Shanghai Tourism Administration, told Reuters.
However the event is primarily targeted at a domestic audience. Officials expect only 5 percent of their expected 70 million visitors to be from outside China.
And much of their tourism promotional efforts have been targeted at the potential of China’s domestic tourists to make a trip to Shanghai for the Expo.
A convoy of “Expo caravans” have set off from Shanghai this month touring the neighboring regions and marketing the World Expo to ordinary Chinese.
The city is also taking the lead from Beijing before the Olympics, by stripping hawkers and various eyesores off its streets.
International brands are also eyeing Expo as a prime opportunity to leave an impression on the emerging world power’s 1.3 billion consumers.
The Smurfs, Bollywood stars, tenor Andrea Bocelli, Cirque du Soleil and German bratwurst all form part of a colourful diplomatic offensive to win Chinese hearts at this year’s show.
India hopes its Bollywood spectacular on July 17 will be a highlight of the event. It is bringing in 50 performers, backed by a team of film effects people and choreographers to act out 40 years of classic movie moments.
But officials acknowledge that World Expo will be beyond the means of many Chinese. An average one-day ticket for the Shanghai World Expo costs 160 yuan ($23.50), a hefty sum to pay for the country’s low income groups.
Instead the city is targeting residents living in its neighbouring rich coastal provinces to form the bulk of the domestic tourists.
“As a whole, we have put our hopes on tourists from the neighbouring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces,” said Connie Cheng. “These two provinces are one of the wealthiest in China and people there can travel to Shanghai quite conveniently.”