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Seasonal 'rocket chasers' ignite aerospace tourism boom in China

Updated: 2024-01-23 17:06 ( Xinhua )
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What's behind the frenzy

China has notched up an impressive series of achievements in the space industry, with important launches including the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System satellites, Chang'e lunar probes, and the Tianwen-1 Mars probe.

Before it became a part of the tourist circuit, Longlou township was relatively obscure to the outside world, with the locals mainly engaged in agriculture and fisheries.

The turning point came in 2016 with the opening of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, China's first open coastal space launch facility. Since then, Longlou has been transformed into a vibrant hub for space enthusiasts.

Rocket launches have also brought fortune to locals. In the past two years alone, the town, home to 27,000 permanent residents, has received over 1.5 million visitors.

Leveraging the space launch center and coastal tourism resources, businesses have mushroomed across Longlou. The count of hotels and bed-and-breakfast (B&B) establishments surged from five to over 50, while shops multiplied from 230 to more than 900, said Ye Sheng, deputy Party secretary of Longlou.

Last year, Zhu Ying, who runs a local B&B, invested an additional 4 million yuan (about $556,600) to renovate 14 rooms. "Many important launch missions will be carried out in Longlou in the future, which will drive the demand for accommodation and travel services," Zhu said.

Xue Ce, manager of a hotel in Longlou, sustains his livelihood from the accommodation business as well by providing tourists with rooftop viewing spots. His account on Xiaohongshu, China's lifestyle-focused social media platform, has garnered thousands of followers, attesting to the growing interest in the town's burgeoning space-related tourism.

"Whenever the launch dates are announced, my rooms quickly get fully booked," Xue said, adding that several guests have now become his good friends.

As space tourism gains momentum, big companies are tapping into the market. According to Yang Tianliang, chairman of Hainan International Commercial Aerospace Launch Co., Ltd., there's tremendous potential in offering space tourism services to ordinary people.

To seize this opportunity, the company launched Hainan's first commercial aerospace tourism route last year, allowing visitors to explore the province's commercial space launch site, currently under construction.

Having witnessed more than 10 rocket launches himself, Zhang Zuoxing said though the initial excitement has waned, he has found a new passion in capturing the expressions of people with his camera as they watch the launch. His lens weaves stories of a blend of joy, surprise and awe of the space enthusiasts.

The spectacle of a rocket launch carries with it the ultimate goal of exploring deep space and unraveling the mysteries of the universe. This endeavor also reflects the dream of the Chinese people.

"The Chinese people's aspiration and exploration of the universe resemble a 'Long March,'" he said. "I am committed to helping more travelers relish the beauty of rocket launches."

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