The Ranking of China's Cities' Cultural Tourism Attractiveness 2018
The Rising Lab
DATE:  Oct 12 2018
/ SOURCE:  The Rising Lab
The Ranking of China's Cities' Cultural Tourism Attractiveness 2018 The Ranking of China's Cities' Cultural Tourism Attractiveness 2018

(Yicai Global) Oct. 12 -- Attractive cities are fresh, fun and comfortable and provide people with a variety of urban life experiences and diverse cultural contextual perceptions. The Ranking of China's Cities' Cultural Tourism Attractiveness 2018 defines an attractive city based on a new understanding of tourism. The list is also a study under the 'new cultural travel era' project co-established by Yicai's The Rising Lab and US real estate professional services and investment management firm JLL, formerly Jones Lang LaSalle.

Those with friends of differing ages on Tencent Holdings ubiquitous Wechat messaging app will see various means of travel in the Moments photos during holidays, which encapsulates travel history of Chinese people over the past 30 years.

For younger travelers today, the number and allure of attractions are no longer the sole reason for their choice of target cities. A street suitable for walking, a Michelin restaurant, a theater festival, and a livable homestay can all be their reasons for traveling, and they thoroughly ponder how many days they will stay in a given location.

This means that cities' job of attracting trippers to travel to them becomes more difficult and many links including transport, catering, accommodation and cultural activities need coordination. The more diverse a city, the more it fits the preferences of various travelers, and this translates into greater attractiveness. A good tourist city, it seems, should look like an ideal city.

The opinion 'tourism is a part of urban life,' which first appeared in the same list three years ago, still applies today. Urban life has become much more nuanced since then, however, and people today are keen to experience a different lifestyle, and their perception of cultural context has become more advanced as an incident to more variegated cultural opportunities.

The merger of China's Ministry of Culture and its National Tourism Administration in April this year enshrined culture's significance in tourism. "Enabling travelers to deeply experience characteristics of their target region is a goal for developing modern cultural tourism," said Xu Daixiong, director of JLL China's Strategic Advisory Department. From government, developers to project operators, the growth pattern of cultural tourism has also changed in recent years. The high-turnover property development pattern is now no longer feasible, and only refined, quality content operations can satisfy discriminating tourists today.

Therefore, if Chinese cities want to draw tourists in the modern era, they must comprehensively measure their vitality in the integrated field of cultural and tourism.

Before building the entire evaluation system, we first select the top 100 cities for the final ranking using the comprehensive results calculated from the basic data.

The number of tourists and tourism income of a city are clearly insufficient to form the current standard of cultural tourism appeal. We certainly have not abandoned these basic indicators, however. It is possible to screen out cities worthy of further evaluation by assigning weights of 0.3, 0.2, 0.1, 0.1, and 0.2, respectively, to a city's total number of domestic and foreign tourists, total tourism revenues, per capita tourism consumption, and number of hotels and scenic spots.

Traditional tourist cities, especially those supported by a single attraction, did not even qualify for the ranking. Longyan, which is close to Xiamen in Fujian province, boasts the World Heritage-listed Tulou round fortified dwelling of the Hakka people. Most travelers to Xiamen spend a day visiting Longyan, but usually leave without spending the night.

After the selection of these basic data, we proposed three dimensions for the Ranking of China's Cities' Cultural Tourism Attractiveness 2018, namely Experience Novelty, Destination Attractiveness and Quality Growth Potential. Experience novelty assesses a city's cultural tourism attractiveness from the city's fresh and fun places, cultural experience resources, holiday resort facilities, people's interest in the city and the degree of appreciation, as well as its comprehensive tourism development potential. We established 24 basic indicators in the ranking's data model, which connects travel-related Big Data from Ctrip.Com International, Mafengwo, Beijing Zhaopin.Com and Tencent Social Ads, and combines the business database of new first-tier cities.

Among three metrics employed, we assign a weight of 0.4 each to Experience Novelty and Destination Attractiveness, since the former indicates our understanding of 'cultural tourism' and 'attractiveness,' while the latter is a clear result of visitors' choice. Quality Growth Potential, an indicator of futurity by its nature, is fraught with many uncertainties and thus is gets a weight of 0.2.

The ten cities with the greatest cultural tourism attractiveness are Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi'an, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Tianjin this year. In addition to the first-tier cities, Chongqing, Chengdu, and Xi'an rank third, fifth and sixth, respectively, which coincides with the list of popular cities in TikTok, a Chinese music video platform and social media. These three cities show up in 40 percent of 100 popular videos on city images.

Many city governments have enthusiastically opened official accounts on social network and music platform TikTok and encouraged local people to upload videos to attract travelers. Videos showing a city's culture or scenes tend to gain mass views. Hongyadong, a remaining gate in the old city wall, is a must-see for visitors to Chongqing, and has now become the most recognized symbol of the city on TikTok, which corresponds with the popular scene ranking in tour guide platform Mafengwo.

The trend is that people are increasingly fond of attractions rooted in a city's cultural genes. Enjoying local lifestyles through traveling is also the core of the concept 'all-for-one tourism' promoted by the tourism departments of Chinese cities in recent years. Tourists and service providers with similar thoughts will inevitably push the cultural tourism industry in China to a new level of diversity and enrichment.

The rankings and scores for the complete 100 cities are listed below. You can see what roles the three metrics of experience novelty, destination attractiveness, and quality growth potential play in the evaluation. 

Experience Novelty

Young travelers may choose their tourist destination based on a photo, a video clip or even a concert or event. The freshness of experience describes the diverse experiences and feelings a city can provide to its travelers.

Using Theme Park, Deep Experience, City Roaming, and One-stop Vacation as indexes to assess the freshness of travelers' experience in a city represent four different ways of tourism consumption.

In the single ranking, you will find that first-tier cities and new first-tier top cities rank the top 10, with Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu making up the top three. In the terms of tourism consumption upgrade, those cities with stronger consumption power and comprehensive strength are more popular in terms of cultural leisure activities.

Shanghai Disneyland, which opened two years ago, received 11 million visitors in 2017. The number exceeds all domestic theme parks, including the long-established Zhuhai Chimelong Ocean Kingdom and Hangzhou Songcheng. It is only behind Tokyo Disneyland, Universal Studios Japan (Osaka) and Tokyo DisneySea in the Asia-Pacific region. The success of Disney alone shows the attractiveness of theme parks, which can bring tourism income to a city. Success of a theme park requires time, however. In Xu Daixiong's experience, developers need to invest considerable resources and energy to cultivate and operate the intellectual property of a theme park. The investment recoupment period is generally about 15 years.

Travelers go to these cities not only for the theme parks. There have always been foreign fans who go to watch niche movies at Shanghai Film Festival, and the Shanghai International Marathon has also attracted many runners from other places. People will increasingly go to other places for a weekend or take a short trip purely for events like films, drama, music festivals, international marathons, or musical concerts.

Beijing and Shanghai have hosted some 2,874 and 2,282 performances that require tickets on entertainment ticketing platform Damai between January and July 2018, respectively. The two cities have also put on many large exhibitions and performances.

 This is what we call the Deep Experience Index in this dimension. Tourists travel to participate in activities that are only available locally.

Others prefer to walk around the city, live like a local, and take in the local history and culture.

For the above, cultural experience resources such as cafes, bars, bookstores, live houses, cultural institutions, and museums are valuable. They are concrete manifestations and spatial carriers of urban culture, which contribute greatly to our understanding of City Roaming.

According to international practices, mature tourism and a holiday economy emerge when a country or region has a per capita gross domestic product of USD 5,000. A good resort-style tourist attraction requires a variety of catering, higher-end accommodation and convenient living facilities in its surrounding area.

Calculating the number of restaurants, hotels and toilets within one kilometer of scenic spots and the user ratings shows that the closer those facilities are to the spot, the higher the score. Lijiang and Wuzhen are typical ancient town-style tourist cities, and hotels are mostly concentrated there. Hotels and B&Bs are strongly concentrated in Shanghai because of the higher degree of urbanization.

Destination Attractiveness

The number of tourists, based on official data, remains a vital basic measure of a city's popularity with travelers. We included this as the Tourists Preference Index.

It is difficult to distinguish business travel demand from leisure travel preference as well as to notice fluctuations in demand that indicate growth trends in the sector using the number of tourists. Therefore, we refer to online data, which is in abundant.

Ctrip provides overall statistics for its users' purchases of non-commercial tourism products including DIY tours, package tours, entrance tickets, local entertainment and guide services for the first half of this year. Our Tourism Popularity Index for each tourist destination is based on data regarding the purchasing of these products.

Popular tourist cities based on traditional tourism statistics are totally different from those based on internet travel data.

Leisure tourists who use internet platforms prefer to spend a long vacation in popular places such as Sanya, Haikou, Guilin and Zhuhai. Cities for business travel and historic sightseeing spots including Wuhan, Hefei, Luoyang and Tianjin which score highly based on the number of tourists in the Tourist Popularity Index ranking.

We evaluated the Tourists Attention Index based on the new travel notes posted online for various cities and the tourist destinations' popularity in the past year from This data is from the users in first-tier and new first-tier cities and can show the growth in tourists from key markets to destinations.

The increase in Destination Popularity takes into consideration the users' approach to searching for, browsing and purchasing tourism products and indicates cities for which the attention of tourists has rapidly increased. Xi'an has seen an increase of 77 percent in the Destination Popularity Index in the past year, more than other first-tier and new first-tier cities. This is rapid growth based on its high popularity, innovations in traveling experience and marketing. The popularity of Zunyi, Weinan, Linyi, Qiannan and Weifang also doubled last year.

We profiled the DestinationAttractiveness which takes the ability of a tourist city to attract more city dwellers a key fundamental for mass tourism. Other factors include how worthwhile is a long vacation in the city as well as how fresh experiences can be there.

Quality Growth Potential

China's urban dwellers spend more on tourism than their rural counterparts, according to a recent research report published by Jones Lang LaSalle.

People whose average daily spending falls between USD20 and USD50, a group which comprises about 180 million Chinese people, typically spend up to CNY1,278 (USD186) a day at their holiday destination, data from the report showed. And cities that want to continue growing their tourism sector must closely follow consumption trends and ramp up quality across the industry.

Chinese tourists are becoming much fussier and have more money to burn. Accommodation Upgrade Potential Index evaluates if a city's ability to provide high-end hotels to attract big spenders. Shanghai was the best at doing so, thanks to its ability to reel in foreign hotel chains, while Beijing followed in second and new first-tier cities Chengdu, Hangzhou and Suzhou trumped both Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Young tourists are also growing less tolerant of budget accommodations, and mid-range lodgings in Shanghai, Tianjin, Jinan, Wuxi and other cities are now housing more branded chains as companies look to offer a broad range of quality among hotels.

Tourism Labor Index considers the attractiveness of tourism talents in a city. From accommodation, catering, scenic spots to public transportation, and high-level urban tourism experiences, all of which are supported by talents throughout the city. Hangzhou is well equipped to do so, with a higher average salary across the tourism and catering sectors than other cities, according to online recruitment services provider Zhaopin. However, high-level managers tend to flock toward Beijing and Chengdu.

Cities with easy access and high consumer spending will attract more theme parks, high-end hotels and other cultural tourism hot spots and are more likely to play home to influential tourism projects. One such city is Jiaxing, which is within a two-hour ride by high-speed rail or car from eleven cities, including Shanghai and Hangzhou. More than 80 million people can access the city by bus or high-speed rail, and the average disposable income per capita within the city ring road is CNY58,100 (USD8,456) a year.

Central Chinese cities have become more accessible as the high-speed rail network in the region has become more developed, increasing the cities' tourism potential. For example, Changsha is now accessible within two hours from 18 cities via high-speed rail links, compared with four by road. Cities along the middle stretches of the Yangtze River are also accessible within two hours to 2.8 times more people by rail than by road.

Cities with a higher Potential Tourist Index are often not those that have the strongest commercial appeal, but those located near megacities so are accessible to many people. These cities have bred quality local attractions like the Jiaxing Wuzhen Drama Festival and the Huzhou Mogan Mountain Homestay Cluster.

The Ranking of China's Cities' Cultural Tourism Attractiveness 2018 (Full list)


1 Beijing

2 Shanghai

3 Chongqing

4 Guangzhou

5 Chengdu

6 Xi'an

7 Hangzhou

8 Nanjing

9 Shenzhen

10 Tianjin


11 Xiamen

12 Suzhou

13 Jiaxing

14 Qingdao

15 Wuhan

16 Changsha

17 Kunming

18 Harbin

19 Sanya

20 Jinan


21 Lijiang

22 Wuxi

23 Guiyang

24 Zhengzhou

25 Zhuhai

26 Guilin

27 Ningbo

28 Shangrao

29 Haikou

30 Dalian

31 Urumqi

32 Changzhou

33 Shenyang

34 Nanchang

35 Taiyuan

36 Changchun

37 Nanning

38 Hohhot

39 Dongguan

40 Zhoushan


41 Yangzhou

42 Shijiazhuang

43 Hefei

44 Jining

45 Fuzhou

46 Jinzhong

47 Foshan

48 Lhasa

49 Jiujiang

50 Jinhua

51 Luoyang

52 Qinhuangdao

53 Yichang

54 Huzhou

55 Zhangjiajie

56 Huangshan City

57 Beihai

58 Baoding

59 Weifang

60 Shaoxing


61 Yantai

62 Xishuangbanna

63 Nanping

64 Quanzhou

65 Xuzhou

66 Huizhou

67 Tai'an

68 Wenzhou

69 Weinan

70 Dali

71 Zhenjiang

72 Nantong

73 Leshan

74 Linyi

75 Zunyi

76 Taizhou

77 Xiangxi

78 Baotou

79 Qiannan

80 Chenzhou


81 Jiuquan

82 Aba

83 Weihai

84 Ganzi

85 Hulunbuir

86 Anshun

87 Jilin

88 Gaizhou

89 Jingdezhen

90 Lishui

91 Qiandongnan

92 Datong

93 Yueyang

94 Zhangjiakou

95 Dandong

96 Ordos City

97 Chengde

98 Diqing

99 Yanbian

100 Xilin


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Keywords:   Cultural Tourism Attractiveness