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Tourism helps industrial heritage gain new vigor

The integration of tourism and industrial heritage has injected new vitality into the conservation, reuse and regeneration of the remains of industrial culture in China.

In recent years, multiple Chinese cities have turned industrial heritage — such as old industrial landscapes, factories, and facilities — into popular tourist attractions, sports and recreation venues, including leisure parks, museums, and creative industrial parks. Industrial heritage also has a significant historical value as it is associated with the different stages of China’s industrialization process and reflects the history of technology and industry.

Shougang Park, the century-old former production premises of Chinese steelmaker Shougang Group in Shijingshan district of Beijing, has now become a renowned urban landmark that enjoys increasing popularity. This stands as a vibrant example of industrial heritage as a culturally sustainable option in urban transformation.

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Since opening, this unique park has attracted a growing number of visitors. It boasts not only stunning natural landscapes but also a magnificent large ski jumping platform. The Big Air Shougang is the first competition venue in the history of the Winter Olympics to integrate adaptively reused industrial heritage.

Shougang Park has fully reopened to the public following the closing of the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Visitors can now enjoy the sights of the park, including the Big Air Shougang.

Numerous other localities in China have promoted the regeneration of industrial heritage through sustainable reuse and responsible tourism development.

Keketuohai township in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has successfully transformed itself from a small mining town into a national 5A tourist attraction, the highest rating for Chinese scenic spots, attracting more and more visitors. The No. 3 mine pit and the township’s other industrial relics have been included in the second batch of China’s national industrial heritage list.

In Diaobingshan, a city in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, steam locomotives, which were retired and replaced by diesel and electric locomotives as technology advanced, have become valuable tourism resources. In the past, obsolete locomotives were either sold as scrap or melted down. However, after seeing the heightened interest both from foreign and domestic enthusiasts of railway heritage, Tiefa Coal Industry (Group) Co., Ltd. has put forward and explored new ideas to better protect and utilize this industrial heritage. Thus, the company has established a steam locomotive museum.

Today, the museum houses a collection of 21 steam locomotives, which are maintained in good condition and can even ride the rails. It has hosted several notable international steam locomotive photography and tourism events, and has attracted photography and steam locomotive fanatics from across China and the globe. Moreover, it has served as a shooting location for numerous movies and TV dramas.

Since 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has released 194 items on the country’s national industrial heritage list in five batches.

In 2021, eight government departments, including the MIIT, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the Ministry of Education, jointly issued an implementation plan for promoting the development of industrial culture.

According to the plan, China encourages localities to develop industrial tourism and build industrial tourism demonstration bases by leveraging industrial heritage, old factory sites, industrial museums, modern factories, and other industrial resources. China also called on building educational research and practice bases featuring industrial culture by making use of industrial heritage and old factories.

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