Shanghai, long renowned as a global commercial hub, is now enhancing its image as a premier international tourist destination by hosting an array of world-class artistic performances. This strategic move, aimed at attracting opera enthusiasts and musical aficionados, perfectly aligns with the city’s ambition to develop cultural tourism. Yang Jialu, Vice-President of the Center for China Shanghai International Arts Festival, underscores this approach as an effective synergy between culture and tourism, where cultural offerings not only enrich the travel experience but also contribute to the flourishing of the tourism industry.
The Shanghai International Arts Festival, a flagship event that commenced in 1999, showcased its cultural prowess in the recent edition, featuring 72 diverse productions, including 12 international premieres. The month-long festival, starting October 15, dazzled audiences with about 1,000 shows, drawing an impressive attendance of six million people, including a significant number of international and national visitors. Highlight performances by globally acclaimed artists such as tenor Placido Domingo and soprano Anna Netrebko, along with hit musicals like “The Last Five Years,” have not only captivated audiences but also signaled a growing interest in classical music among Shanghai’s youth.
Yang expresses confidence in the pivotal role these high-caliber art shows play in promoting Shanghai’s cultural tourism. She emphasizes that art is instrumental in boosting the economy and stimulating consumer spending, a sentiment echoed by Fang Shizhong, Director of the Shanghai Administration of Culture and Tourism. He notes that such festivals elevate Shanghai’s status as a global city and a key entry point into mainland China for international visitors.
Shanghai’s commitment to blending culture with tourism is part of a broader strategy to create new economic growth drivers. This approach has been met with enthusiasm, particularly among affluent Chinese consumers, whose growing appetite for culture has made Western blockbusters and stage shows lucrative in the city’s entertainment landscape. Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions between 2020 and 2022, the classical art show market in Shanghai is witnessing a robust recovery. In the first half of 2023, the city hosted 22,000 shows with a 12 million-strong audience, marking a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
In its pursuit to rejuvenate the tourism sector post-pandemic, the Shanghai municipal government has launched innovative initiatives like China’s first self-built cruise ship, ‘Magic City,’ and a revamped cruise service on the rejuvenated Suzhou Creek. These efforts are testament to Shanghai’s resilience and commitment to establishing itself as a cultural and tourism powerhouse.