In a bid to attract both domestic and international tourists, China is giving people what they want; a tourist route dedicated to all things panda.
The route will be in Sichuan province and will help link up sites like the reopened Wolong Giant Panda Reserve and Chengdu’s famous breeding research base. There will also be panda-themed hotels and cycle routes with camping sites along the way.
One of the keys to the success of the route will be improving infrastructure. Currently, the panda attractions can be up to three hours drive from the province’s capital of Chengdu and its hoped journey times can be cut in half, enabling more people to make day trips to see the animals. There may even be a chance to spot wild pandas along the way.
Fu Yonglin, director of the Tourism Development Commission of Sichuan province, told China Daily that the animals would remain protected from tourists. “When it comes to the panda, the priority, always, is protection”, he said. “We can develop all kinds of products using the image of the panda, but for live ones, the most important thing is to have them live a happy and peaceful life.”
Sichuan has seven nature reserves and nine parks that together make up the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, a Unesco World Heritage Site. They are home to 30% of the world’s giant panda population, as well as other endangered species.
The province say the pandas have been a big tourist draw in recent years and are looking to expand that interest. Earlier this week, the first direct flight to Chengdu from New Zealand was launched, due to an increase in interest from tourists from both countries.
The fate of the giant panda is looking a lot more positive in recent years after heavy conservation efforts from China and, with a 17% rise in population, they are no longer considered endangered though they are listed as ‘vulnerable’. Earlier in the year, plans were also announced for a new national park across the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Sichuan which will protect even more of their habitat and allow more pandas to meet and potentially mate.