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Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Unconventional Tour Guide: How Zhu Ming’s Unique Approach to Guiding is Changing the Tourism Industry

LifestyleThe Unconventional Tour Guide: How Zhu Ming's Unique Approach to Guiding is Changing the Tourism Industry

Zhu Ming is a tour guide hailing from Zhejiang, whose exceptional talent has made him a popular internet sensation in recent years. According to a report by Yang Feiyue, Zhu has an uncanny ability to captivate his audience, drawing their attention and making them lean in eagerly to listen to what he has to say. Through his tours, Zhu broadens the minds of his clients, providing them with a fresh perspective on the places they visit and creating a truly memorable experience.

Zhu’s charm and unique style of guiding have earned him over 10 million followers on popular short-video platforms like Douyin and Kuaishou. His fans speak highly of his fun-filled yet educational journeys, with many saying that they have been swept off their feet by his infectious enthusiasm for exploration and his wealth of knowledge. Zhu’s engaging storytelling style has made him a trusted source of information and inspiration for his followers.

Zhu’s ability to captivate his audience with intriguing questions is a testament to his skill as a tour guide. Questions such as “What’s underneath the People’s Liberation Monument in Chongqing?” and “How difficult was the nine-day ancient imperial examination and how did the test takers manage to eat and sleep in a cramped test space in the interim?” draw in his guests before he delivers his fact-based explanations.

At the age of 40, Zhu has honed his ability to discuss lesser-known yet fascinating aspects of far-flung destinations, leaving his guests feeling like they have received a unique and valuable experience. His interpretation of Hengdian World Studios in Jinhua city, Zhejiang, has turned a simple photo studio into a mine of stories. Zhu shares intricate details such as how the studio owner can afford the exorbitant rent of 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) and still manage to make a profit.

With over two decades of experience in the tourism industry, Zhu has developed a knack for approaching the culture and history of China’s vast land from interesting angles that keep his audience on the edge of their seats. In 2019, he began uploading short videos of his tours’ highlights on Douyin, not expecting the videos to become a sensation.

Despite his initial skepticism, Zhu’s popularity skyrocketed, and he has become a local renowned guide.

Zhu Ming’s desire to change public stereotypes about tour guides led to his online endeavor. He was disappointed to learn from his guests that many of them considered tour guides to be good if they did not force them to go shopping during trips. This low expectation of tour guides left a poor impression, and Zhu wanted to do something to change that image.

In one of his tours in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province, in 2021, Zhu explained the ebb and flow of ancient towns’ tourism development spanning two decades. His delivery was filled with exciting anecdotes and revealed fascinating truths that led to different popular features among those towns.

After Zhu uploaded the 12-minute clip on Douyin, it took the virtual world by storm, drawing in more than 68 million views. Netizens praised Zhu’s erudition and talents and expressed their eagerness to book his tours.

The initial videos were mostly filmed by Zhu’s clients during tours. They featured his lively explanations and humorous interactions, which reflected his firm grasp of local culture and history. Zhu presents himself as an amicable next-door uncle, wearing a pair of black-framed glasses and a traditional Chinese costume. He knows how to pique curiosity toward things often taken for granted and spontaneously shares his feelings without reservation with his clients, treating them like family or friends.

These qualities have endeared him to his fans online. However, Zhu believes that the root reason for his popularity is that Chinese travelers increasingly put a premium on quality tour service. By providing an engaging and informative experience, Zhu has raised the bar for tour guides and helped to change the public’s perception of the industry.

In Zhu’s own words, “I think people enjoy my videos because I give them the traditional cultural knowledge that they crave. I stay true to myself and to the authentic stories that I share with my guests on an actual tour.” He explains that he takes the most important knowledge points and simplifies them before incorporating them into his tour explanations. To add a little humor, he also throws in a few punchlines here and there.

Zhu first applied for a trade license as a tour guide back in 2000 after he was discharged from military service and returned to his hometown of Wuzhen in Zhejiang province. At the time, tourism was booming, and Zhu saw an opportunity to put his gift of gab to use. He had dabbled in stand-up comedy in school and knew how to make people laugh. With this in mind, he passed the tour guide certification test and became a professional guide in Wuzhen later that year.

During the early stages of his career, Zhu studied the guidance scripts of his colleagues to ensure he was well-prepared. His first group of guests included 40 experienced tour guides from other regions. To impress them, he read local history and culture books and created his own explanation. This experience encouraged Zhu to develop a reading habit, and he now reads on his phone whenever he has some free time.

According to Zhu, a great tour guide should know more than just the official introduction of a destination. It’s important to listen to guests and get to know their preferences, then tailor the tour to their interests. This personal touch is what makes the tour special and unforgettable. Sun Yanlan, who has known Zhu for 15 years and helps with his tour business operations, is impressed by his ability to explain complex issues in simple terms. Sun recalls how Zhu’s passion for learning and interacting with people stood out even when he was a blogger at a tourism forum. She remembers one particular tour guide training meeting that he organized on his own, which attracted more than 2,000 people. “He loves getting to the bottom of things,” Sun says.

Zhu’s talent and hard work have not gone unnoticed. He won first prize at the Zhejiang provincial tour guide competition in 2004 and has been named a “golden guide” in Hangzhou multiple times in the years following. His impressive accomplishments have earned him a special talent accreditation by Hangzhou authorities. Despite his long tenure in the industry, Zhu still enjoys being a tour guide. He finds fulfillment in the job and loves meeting different travelers, whom he considers to be fascinating people. To Zhu, the thrill of being a tour guide lies in the unknown and the job is never repetitive.

Even with his tremendous online success, Zhu still takes guests on tours. He hopes that people continue to see him as a happy guide who shares his knowledge of scenic spots and culture with enthusiasm and humor. The fame he has gained online has led Zhu to a new direction in his career, particularly during the pandemic when the tourism industry suffered greatly. Zhu’s videos have not only enriched people’s lives by showcasing the beauty of the country, but they have also helped struggling tourism businesses and scenic spots. For example, a tulip scenic spot in Jiangsu’s Yancheng experienced a 30% increase in business turnover in 2021 after Zhu’s introduction. A small restaurant in Hangzhou that Zhu recommended saw its business boom and expand in the same year.

Seeing the positive impact he could bring about, Zhu has made a point of uploading one or two videos a day. His followers have grown exponentially, with most being men between 30 and 50 years old who are interested in politics, economy, and history. Zhu believes it is crucial to encourage future tourism players to stay the course and is committed to breathing some positivity into his industry. He hopes to inspire more young people to join the field by demonstrating how to create opportunities in a crisis and how to provide excellent tourism services. By sharing his stories of success, Zhu aims to help other tour guides and inspire more people to choose tourism as their career.

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