A senior citizen from Russia receives cupping therapy at a elderly care center in Heihe, Heilongjiang province. (Photo by Qiu Qilong/China Daily)
A niche market has developed for the eldercare industry in Heilongjiang province, as the northeast China area has seen increasing numbers of senior citizens from Russia and South Korea traveling to the region after their retirement.
Last year, about 650,000 pensioners made their way to Heilongjiang province to travel and take services such as hotsprings therapies and traditional Chinese medicine therapies, as well as to go to spas. This year, the number of older visitors it received has exceeded 1 million and the business has continued to heat up, according to the local government.
Heihe, a city in Heilongjiang province, plans to foster a new source of economic growth by launching a high-end traveling route that combines taking volcanic hot springs and visits to the city, as well as visits to the city of Blagoveshchensk－less than 1.6 kilometer away across the dividing Heilong River (Black Dragon River), or Amur river－in Russia.
The package aims to draw more Russian elderly to the area for recuperation and tourism, and attract more Chinese elderly to come to Russia.
A sanatorium named Millennium Eldercare Center near Wudalianchi National Park, a tourism resort with top healthcare and spa resources in Heihe, received about 11,000 senior citizen customers last year from China and abroad, with more than 8,000 being Russians.
Ye Hui, president of the Millennium Eldercare Center, said hot spring spas had become an increasingly popular choice for customers.
"We are building a spa venue and bringing volcanic hot springs into the venue. The facility is expected to launch by the end of November," said Ye.
"In summer, often a busy season, the hotel rooms at our center are usually full. With the lure of the hot springs, we plan to attract more customers to come here in winter and transform the current offseason into another busy season."
Ivanova Natalia Ivanovna, a Russian senior citizen who has been to the Wudalianchi National Park area four times, said she loved the region and went there every year for health and spa treatment vacation.
"I can enjoy the professional massage and traditional Chinese medicine therapies like acupuncture," she said.
As of October, Heilongjiang province had 2,265 registered eldercare agencies with more than 200,000 beds. Over 155,000 elderly customers stayed at those agencies each year on average, the local government said.
Last year, the added value of the eldercare sector in the province accounted for 9.9 percent of local GDP, edging up 0.7 percentage points year-on-year.
Meanwhile, the eldercare sector of Heilongjiang province is also looking to attract more elderly customers from other Chinese areas.
This summer, 69-year-old Yang Mingjiang visited Wudalianchi National Park for the first time and stayed there for half a month, together with 40 other elderly visitors from Beijing.
"This is an ideal place for the elderly, with its clean air, suitable temperatures and picturesque sceneries," said Yang.
"A lot of elderly customers enjoy spas there and drink mineral water directly from the mountain."