Visitors trickle back to Qing village attraction as China eases curbs

A visitor to Gubei Water Town yesterday wearing a face mask and traditional Chinese clothing. The town, 110km from Beijing, normally teems with tourists on Labour Day, but crowds were thin yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS
A visitor to Gubei Water Town yesterday wearing a face mask and traditional Chinese clothing. The town, 110km from Beijing, normally teems with tourists on Labour Day, but crowds were thin yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

GUBEI WATER TOWN (China) • The mock Qing Dynasty village nestled below the Great Wall would normally be teeming with tourists on Labour Day, but the thin crowds yesterday showed that while China's coronavirus epidemic has subsided, people's fears could take longer to fade.

During holidays, some 100,000 visitors a day would traipse round the quaint stone-paved streets of Gubei Water Town, 110km north-east of Beijing.

Its marketing manager reckoned on getting just a tenth of that number this year.

"People have concerns about the virus and are unwilling to travel long distances," said Mr Guo Baorong.

For a start, there will be no international tourists this time, he said, noting that foreigners would normally make up around 15 per cent of visitors.

About 70 per cent of China's tourist attractions had reopened as of Thursday, according to China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, but all sites have to cap visitors to 30 per cent of their designed capacity.

More sites, including the Forbidden City in Beijing, reopened yesterday.

Staff at the entrance to Gubei Water Town checked visitors' temperatures and health tracking codes.

Inside, lines on the ground directed tourists to stand 1m apart and stores used ropes to keep crowds from forming.

Like everywhere else in China since lockdowns were imposed to stem the epidemic, everyone wore masks.

Still, in places where tourists squeezed together as the streets narrowed, staff shouted at them to spread out.

Some tourists enjoyed the smaller crowds.

Ms Xiao Chen, a 24-year-old student who was wearing traditional Chinese garb known as hanfu came to Gubei to take pictures of ancient architecture.

"It's good to come out of the city. There was barely anyone in Gubei Water Town yesterday, and even today, it's not crowded," she said.

The tranquillity may not last. Room bookings jumped on Thursday after Beijing and nearby areas began easing coronavirus restrictions, with about 90 per cent of accommodation now reserved.

"We were not expecting that many people to come in," said Mr Guo.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2020, with the headline 'Visitors trickle back to Qing village attraction as China eases curbs'. Subscribe