Beijing, Nov 30 — A promotional video for Sichuan Province’s tourism featuring a shy and ruggedly handsome 20-year-old Tibetan is paying off with the number of hotel bookings doubled in his hometown in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and invitation for him to visit other provinces across the county.
Tashi Dingzhen shot to fame after his first video showed him slowly walking toward the camera with a sunny smile, with towering snow-capped mountains in the background. The video quickly generated a storm of compliments after it was posted on November 11 on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.
Dingzhen’s wind-bitten face, gleaming white teeth and his traditional Tibetan outfit made netizens mistakenly think he is from the Tibet Autonomous Region, with many saying they would travel to Tibet to meet him.
Dingzhen on Friday posted a photo showing him holding a sign saying “my home is in Sichuan,” triggering what Chinese netizens called the “battle” for Dingzhen between Sichuan and Tibet.
The “battle” humorously grew into a nationwide promotion with provinces and regions across China, including Shandong which is almost 2,000 kms from Garze, inviting Dingzhen for a visit.
Citing Qunar, a Chinese travel platform, media report said hotel bookings in Garze had climbed by 89 percent compared to the same period last year.
On November 17, daily bookings to the region increased 111 percent year on year and the daily increase stayed around this level the following week, according to media reports.
November is usually an off season for tourism, but booking for flights to Kangding, Garze’s capital, and Yading, a famous nature reserve in Garze, doubled between November 16-25 compared to the same period last year, showing the power of Dingzhen’s popularity and the local government’s follow-up promotion and preferential policies.
The Garze government announced on November 12 that 67 class A scenic spots in the region will open to visitors from November 15 to February 1, 2021. The hastag has been viewed more than 180 million times as of Sunday.
Dingzhen earned even more praise from netizens when on November 21, he said on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo platform that he had become tourism ambassador for his hometown Litang, Garze, with a monthly salary of 3,500 yuan ($532).
“He is different from other internet celebrities; his population has indeed brought benefits to local residents. I am happy to see that,” a Weibo user commented.
The Sichuan provincial government announced in February that Litang had been officially lifted out of poverty.
Dingzhen’s popularity may have been accidental, but the success shows that local poverty alleviation officials are always ready to make use of any opportunity to help local residents, said Du Xiaoshan, a researcher at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
It is a common phenomenon for remote, poverty-stricken areas in China, to find a way to promote local tourism and products, Du told the Global Times on Sunday, noting that in recent years, poverty-alleviation officials in these places have been sparing no efforts to actively and innovatively make use of new methods, especially through social media, to promote local tourism and help local residents sell products.