Chinese officials at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism pledged this week to further promote so-called “red tourism,” with the goal of better protecting and using the historical relics associated with this kind of tourism. Red tourism, usually associated with travel to important sites or museums connected to the Communist revolution in China, has long been a major facet of China’s tourism industry. Popular red tourist sites include the ancestral home of Mao Zedong in Hunan or Yan’an in Shaanxi Province, the primary base of operations for the Chinese Communist Party after the 1934-1935 Long March. Chinese state media has also been quick to highlight the growing popularity of such tourism, especially among young Chinese.

Chinese OTA Lvmama reported a 30 percent increase of visitors of military-themed tourist sites in July

The state-run tabloid Global Times quoted representatives from Chinese online travel agency Lvmama who stated that travel to “military-themed tourist areas” saw a 30 percent year-over-year increase in July compared to July of last year. The Global Times reported that some of the most popular of these military-themed tourist areas include the Nanjing National Defense Park and the Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park in Tianjin.

Officials are also making substantial efforts in attracting children to these sites with military-themed training camps. One such camp operator that the Global Times spoke to stated that his camp attracted 3,000 students a month for short-term military training. Children who attend can fire real guns and ride in helicopters and tanks. Prices for these camps range from $264 (1,800 yuan) and $1,467.

A part of the growing red tourism trend is military training camps for children

It’s hard, if not impossible, to fully pin down the exact number of tourists traveling to such military theme parks and red tourist sites. Much of this growing nationalism in China can be attributed to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has made nationalism an increasingly central part of state rhetoric and ideology.

Growing nationalist sentiment in the past few years in China has resulted in an overall growing popularity in nationalist expression through tourism.

Chinese tourists are also traveling abroad to visit major red tourist sites

The trend is also clearly represented in Chinese outbound tourism, with Chinese tourists boycotting destinations like Japan or South Korea due to diplomatic or territorial conflicts. However, it also resulted in Chinese tourists opting to travel to red tourism sites abroad.

Among these international red tourist destinations, Russia is probably the most popular, as the country is home to the world’s most famous Marxist-Leninist historical sites. Such sites include Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoleum.

Another surprising red tourism hot spot is the German city of Trier. The city is the birthplace of Karl Marx, the philosopher and economic historian who founded the school of communist thought that formed the basis of the political ideologies of both the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Roughly 150,000 Chinese tourists visit Trier annually.

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