Text/Hua Zhuoma

A barbecue, a hairpin, and a diving video can set a city on fire. In 2023, a number of "Internet celebrity cities" such as Zibo, Quanzhou, and Tianjin will come out of the circle in a seemingly incredible way.

However, after ushering in the long-lost popularity in the "right time and place", the "Internet celebrity city" is also facing various challenges such as urban services and development models.

Strong social demand is superimposed on short videos, just to "follow the trend and check in"

Looking back on 2023, the first wave of traffic of the "Internet celebrity city" is undoubtedly brought by Zibo barbecue.

Zibo has been on fire throughout the summer of 2023. According to Mafengwo tourism data, during the May Day holiday in 2023, the popularity of Zibo increased by 605% month-on-month.

After that, a number of "Internet celebrity cities" have sprung up like mushrooms in 2023. Actor Zhao Liying's photo of wearing a hairpin flower wai made the "special forces" rush to Quanzhou to check in, and the hairpin flower wai has also become a tourism experience project in Quanzhou; The video of Dong Yuhui riding a camel in Dunhuang allowed Dunhuang to reproduce the "Silk Road caravan" composed of tourists, and also brought fire to Lanzhou, which had been silent for a long time in the tourism market, and there was a situation where sheepskin rafts were "hard to find"; The video of Uncle Tianjin's diving made countless people gather at Tianjin Lion Forest Bridge.

In 2023, the way many cities get out of the circle seems incredible, but it also reflects changes in social psychology and consumption Xi.

Sun Yunlong, an associate professor at the Department of Tourism Studies at Fudan University, told China News Service that individuals have a demand for social activities that are clustered and have fireworks, and when the epidemic returns to normal after three years, there will be more enthusiastic demand for social and tourism.

Waves of concerts in 2023, the rise of stamp-style tourism, and behaviors such as looking for food and travel partners all reflect strong social needs and desire to share.

At the same time, the epidemic has increased people's dependence on short videos and live broadcasts. According to the Research Report on the Development of Online Audiovisual in China (2023), as of December 2022, the number of short video users in China has reached 12.10 billion, the number of online live broadcast users has reached 12 million, and the usage rate of online audiovisual netizens is as high as 7.51%.

In Sun Yunlong's view, everyone is more proficient in the use of short video production, live broadcast and other technologies, relying on short videos to obtain travel recommendations, and at the same time, with the help of short video travel check-ins, to meet the desire for social interaction and sharing. Therefore, many cities have become popular by relying on short videos.

"Out of the circle" marketing, niche cities are finally excavated

In recent years, the domestic tourism market has also been quite innovative. With the inward demand for outbound tourism, all localities have begun to pay attention to further driving niche tourism cities "out of the circle" through the tourism economy.

Wu Ben, an associate professor at the Department of Tourism Studies at Fudan University, told China News Service that outbound travel was restricted during the epidemic, and after turning their attention to China, they began to explore tourist destinations worthy of in-depth travel. At the same time, tourism companies that have been forced to "slow down" are striving to improve their product design and reception service capabilities, launching many high-quality products, and innovative formats of domestic tourism are emerging one after another, and the overall quality is improving.

After the return to normalization of social operation in 2023, although outbound travel routes have gradually recovered, prices have not yet returned to the pre-epidemic level, and a group of tourists have turned to the southwest, northwest, northeast and other places, and niche cities in these regions have ushered in spring. According to the forecast of Flight Steward, the average daily number of domestic routes in 2023 will be 12436,2019, an increase of 5.2% over the same period in <>, and the capacity will be surpassed.

At the same time, Wu Ben said that at present, all parts of the country are looking for new economic growth points, especially during the epidemic period, many underdeveloped areas have tasted the dividends of tourism consumption under the integration of culture and tourism, and the cultural and tourism industry has received unprecedented attention from many regional governments.

Starting from the beginning of 2023, the directors of cultural and tourism bureaus in various places will begin to "roll in" in short videos to "make a name for themselves" for the local area. From the director of culture and tourism of Tahe County, Heilongjiang, who incarnated as the "master of the forest", to the director of culture and tourism of Wannian County, Jiangxi Province, who wore a primitive skirt, and then to the director of the Suizhou Municipal Bureau of Culture and Tourism who came out of the circle with a kind of "beauty that does not care about people's lives and deaths", etc., a number of directors of culture and tourism have successfully attracted traffic to many places.

How can the "Internet celebrity cities" not be "outdated"?

In 2024, can the popularity of "Zibo" continue? Sun Yunlong said that in the short term, the explosion of "Internet celebrity cities" in 2023 is inextricably linked to the epidemic in the past three years, and with the gradual release of consumer demand, it may not be sustainable. However, from the perspective of short videos and live broadcast marketing, "Internet celebrity cities" may be even hotter in the future.

Of course, whether the traffic can be retained depends on the response of each city.

Although the "Internet celebrity city" has attracted long-lost popularity to some places, problems have also arisen. For example, there was a situation of camel fatigue and paralysis in Dunhuang, and a large number of Zibo barbecue stalls were transferred at low prices after the transition to winter.

Sun Yunlong said that some "Internet celebrity cities" have insufficient reception service capacity, and they are tired of coping with the tidal flow of people, although they rely on marketing to attract tourists, but the tourism consumption experience is not good, "tourists may take pictures and leave after punching the card, which cannot bring repeated consumption, but usher in complaints, and the gains outweigh the losses."

Sun Yunlong believes that the types of resources in each city are different, but the core competitiveness is still services. Therefore, all localities must do a good job in providing services after "drainage", including catering, accommodation, transportation, emergency plans, etc., which is an all-round challenge for local governments and enterprises.

At the same time, some "Internet celebrity cities" seem to be hot, but the increment brought to the local economy is not as bright as imagined. Taking Zibo, the hottest city as an example, in the first three quarters of 2023, Zibo's GDP increased by 5.2% year-on-year, less than 6% of Shandong Province.

Wu Ben analyzed that this may be related to the fact that many services in Zibo are paid for by the municipal government, the pricing of barbecue products is relatively low, and the price of hotel catering on public holidays is strictly limited. However, he also stressed that Zibo's success in building the city's brand image is still very worthy of Xi from sister cities. Zibo should further consider how to use these flows to drive the high-quality development of related industries.

How to use the "fame" in 2023 to make the popularity of the "Internet celebrity city" more durable?

Wu Ben pointed out that traffic and "influencers" need to give themselves truly recognizable high-quality content and find sustainable characteristics. For example, Shanghai, although there are not many natural resources, but its cultural resources are very good, in addition to the traditional well-known Shanghai culture, red culture, in the minds of many young people is also regarded as a two-dimensional "holy land". Localities need to tap new growth potential differentially according to local characteristics.