(ECNS) -- Zibo, a city in east China’s Shandong Province, has recently gone viral on Chinese social media for its local specialty food, Zibo barbecue, bringing local government opportunities to seek transformation.
“College students going to Zibo for barbeque” and “taking a high-speed train to taste Zibo barbeque” have become hot topics on Chinese social platforms.
Data from Meituan and Dazhong Dianping shows that booking volume for accommodation in Zibo during the five-day May Day holiday is 800 percent higher than that in 2019.
Zibo barbecue offers a distinctive dining experience. On each table is a small stove. Customers can process skewers themselves and then wrap them in a thin pancake, usually with a spring onion inside. The immersive experience of making customized "Zibo barbecue" offers a sense of participation and leisure time for diners.
Local media in Zibo said the number of passengers arriving and departing through Zibo railway station has reached 50,000 a day, setting a record in the past three years, with most of them being tourists who come to taste Zibo barbecue. Many college students in Shandong have made concrete plans to enjoy Zibo barbecue at the least cost, and traveling back and forth by train for only 200 yuan ($29.1).
As an old industrial and resource-based city, Zibo is accelerating the pace of transformation and upgrading. The local government has grasped the chance brought by the sudden trend, to attract more tourists with solicitous services and sincerity.
As early as March 10, it has set up prizes for barbecue shops that are popular among tourists, established a barbecue association, announced the opening of a barbecue festival during the May Day holiday, and distributed barbecue coupons worth 250,000 yuan.
Data shows that in March, Zibo received more than 4.8 million foreign tourists, an increase of 134 percent year-on-year, while its tourism revenue increased by 60 percent.
In order to encourage people to visit the city, Zibo set up a specially customized "barbecue map", and added 21 new barbecue bus lines, so that tourists can "get on the bus to rest, get off to eat".
“Only May Day holiday, National Day holiday, and other festivals could see a high flow of customer traffic before, but it is normal to see such a scene every weekend. My restaurant is filled to capacity on Saturday and some customers may wait at least four hours since noon,” said An Wei, an owner of a barbecue restaurant.
“In Zibo, the barbecue business has always been very booming, and we’ve earned a lot of money, but the question is that the passenger flow is too big for this city so that we’re trying to expand our barbecue scale to satisfy tourists.”
“At present, the biggest problem is that the passenger flow is too big to bear, and we are trying our best to expand the scale to meet everyone,” said Mr. Pang, another owner of a barbecue restaurant.
“Barbecue and tourism have limited influence on stimulating the economy. But this is an opportunity for more people to get to know Zibo’s enthusiasm and business environment, which will attract more investment and create more jobs. This is what really matters,” Wang Dazhuang, a local Zibo citizen said.