Adjacent to Hong Kong, Shenzhen is known as the south gate city and Silicon Valley of China. The city has rapidly developed and urbanized since China implemented its reform and opening-up policy in 1978. The other name of Shenzhen, Peng Cheng (peng means roc, a mythical bird), represents its remarkable history as well as its prospective future, like a roc soaring in the sky.
Tourism demand in Shenzhen has been increasing in the past 10 years. One possible reason is because the areas around Shenzhen are the most developed and internationalized cities in China. Government statistics show that in the first nine months of 2014, the majority of tourists visiting Shenzhen from outside of mainland China were from Hong Kong (65%). Another 8% were from Taiwan, 4% were from Macau, and the remaining 23% from various foreign countries. More than half of mainland Chinese tourists visiting Shenzhen are from provinces other than Guangdong. The main traveling purpose of these tourists is leisure (30%), followed by business (22%) and family (20%) trips.
Shenzhen is ranked as the fourth main tourist city in China based on economic output in the tourism sector. According to the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism, tourism spending in Shenzhen in 2014 amounted to 10.92 million Chinese yuan, with a total of 108 million visitors recorded. Registered hospitality facilities reported a total of 49.91 million visitors staying overnight, of which 11.82 million were overseas visitors and 38.09 million domestic visitors. The city has around 140 travel agencies and more than 1,600 lodging facilities, which are capable of accommodating 150,000 guests per day.
Shenzhen's tourism marketing plan in recent years has been tied together with that of Hong Kong, for example, the “Hong Kong-Shenzhen one-day tour,” targeting both domestic and international markets. The launch of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link in 2011 makes this promotion more attractive, as it greatly shortens the traveling time between Shenzhen and the nearby cities. Convenient flight networks have been promoted nationally, and Shenzhen attracts domestic airlines as well as international airlines. The government of Shenzhen has also adopted many policies to attract overseas visitors, such as 72-hour visa-free transit and incentive policies for travel agencies.
Digital marketing includes the utilization of social media such as Sina Weibo and Renren, both popular social media platforms in mainland China. Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism has assigned staff to maintain its official Sina Weibo account to maximize the publicity of Shenzhen's tourism events. Official websites update government news and allow tourists to submit complaints.
Nevertheless, no promotion from the Shenzhen government has been found on Facebook or Twitter, which are two main networking platforms overseas. The official website of the Shenzhen Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sport and Tourism is not available in an English version, either.
Major tourism destinations have Wi-Fi access to fulfill the requirements of tourists. In terms of local public transportation, special tour routes have been designated: theme park trip routes, coastal leisure trip routes, human history trip routes, city landmarks trip routes, golf tour routes, and shopping and tasting trip routes.
Strict regulations have been put into effect to deter illegal travel agencies. One main concern is that the departure and entry records of tourists have to be strictly controlled by the government so as to maintain national security. This includes not only tourists coming by air, train, or bus, but also those coming by ship.
Shenzhen is also known as the city of theme parks in China. Happy Valley is a major one, offering thrill rides and experiences. The Window of the World collects major world wonders from across five continents, delivering a “one-day world tour.” Built in 1989, Splendid China aims to reflect the 82 most visited historical sites in China via miniatures. Various ethnic folk activities can be experienced in the China Folk Culture Villages of Shenzhen.
Shenzhen is a city not only with modernized buildings, but also with ancient civilizations and a storied history. The ancient town located to the north, Hehu Xinju, has the largest and best-preserved group of Hakkanese buildings in China. In the district of Nanshan, Neolithic historical sites were found that date back 6,000 years ago.
Destinations such as Dameisha Promenade, Xiaomeisha Beach Resort, Chung Ying Street, Xianhu Lake Botanical Garden, Safari Park, and Minsk World are natural attractions in Shenzhen. There are also scores of coastal leisure holiday resorts and corresponding facilities.
Shopping tourism has been well developed in Shenzhen. The city hosts a variety of internationally famous brands as well as a Hong Kong–style shopping mall. Recently, the visa policy between Shenzhen and Hong Kong has been simplified, opening up a great opportunity for the tourism development of Shenzhen (especially shopping tourism), considering Shenzhen is the main gate to Hong Kong for mainland Chinese tourists. Tourists who participate in conferences or other business activities in Shenzhen may enter Hong Kong with acceptable guarantees and a 144-hour-long convenience visa application; foreigners who legally enter Hong Kong or Macau may enter Shenzhen without further visa requirements.
In 2011, the government of Shenzhen published a 10-year tourism development plan that states Shenzhen is aiming to become the “Bali” of Guangdong Province. This plan highlights a series of developments in cruise tourism, aiming to optimize the potential of the islands near Shenzhen. Dapeng Bay is one of the key areas, with plans to build a yacht club connecting with the other bays in nearby cities. Furthermore, a high-speed train operates between all the coastal ports. Other island transportation modes, such as a water helicopter, are still at the planning stage.
Shenzhen also plans to expand its air travel capacity. The development plan for Shenzhen's aerospace industry (2013–2020) was announced by the Shenzhen government in late 2013. This plan emphasizes research and development of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, and proposes a detailed plan to build an aerospace educational park as a high-tech tourism destination. This aerospace park will offer stratosphere tours in cooperation with the National Astronaut Center.
See also China; Cruise Tourism; Hong Kong; Shanghai, China; Shopping and Tourism; Theme Park Tourism