About 18,000 tourists visited Lake Baiyangdian in Hebei Province during the three-day Qingming Festival national holiday, more than double the amount of the previous year and coming as a shock to local residents.
The surge in visitor numbers came days after the announcement of the establishment of Xiongan New Area, a landmark new economic zone designed to promote the integration between the Chinese capital and its surrounding regions. Lake Baiyangdian is located right in the middle of the new area.
As the largest freshwater lake in northern China, Baiyangdian is a summer resort known for its peaceful water, vast lotus gardens and widespread reed banks.
This year, the unusually early arrival of tourists caught locals unprepared, according to reports from China News Service.
“It came one month earlier than planned as all promotion products were to be launched starting from May. At first, we only arranged to have 10 tour guides on duty based on our last year's experience. But the first day of the holiday saw many more tourists than expected, so we had to call back all 40 tour guides to work,” said Di Ruijuan, deputy general manager of Baiyangdian Shuitian Travel Agency.
Boatman Wang Huilai has been working at Lake Baiyangdian for four years. He said he used to carry one or two groups of visitors before, while other boatmen rested on shore without much business to do. But this year, all boatmen were busy, some even ferried tourists around four or five times a day.
For shop owner Zhou Yuehua, who sells local products at the lake, he made about 20,000 yuan (about 2,900 US dollars) worth of turnover within three days, four times more than last year.
“I am almost running out of stock. I will hire a couple of staff to help me for the next holiday,” said Zhou, who is anticipating that the establishment of Xiongan New Area will bring him good business.
Tourist Wang He from Beijing said she visits the lake every summer, and added that “there will be huge changes since central authorities have decided to establish Xiongan New Area. So I came here early this year to see the original look of the lake. I want to be a history witness.”
Zhou Shuangquan, who is in charge of the management of Lake Baiyangdian, said the scenic spot is expected to benefit from Xiongan New Area, so they would increase the number of service staff, and better prepare to embrace more visitors in the future.