|Study trips on the rise amid China's tourism recovery
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BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- As night falls, the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences came alive with the lively chatter and excitement of over 50 junior school students, refusing to let the darkness dampen their spirits.
With enthusiasm in their hearts, the students exchanged excited whispers with friends as they eagerly awaited to explore and learn about the "fantastic plants and animals" with the help of their tour guides.
The students hailing from three middle schools in southwest China's Yunnan Province are enjoying a study trip during their summer vacation. Since June, the botanical garden has been organizing such activities, welcoming an average of 700 students each day.
"It is my first time seeing fireworms, and they look just like twinkling stars," said 13-year-old Xinyi, extending her hands with wonder. Led by Wang Lilan, a tour guide with expertise in biology, the little girl was introduced to various nocturnal animals and their fascinating appearances and habits.
Study trips, which usually refer to extracurricular activities combining learning and packaged tours, are gaining vitality as the country's tourism market is recovering from the impact of COVID-19.
In 2022, the number of study trips made across China exceeded 6 million, hitting a record high. In 2023, the market scale of study trips is expected to reach 13 billion yuan (about 1.82 billion U.S. dollars) to 15 billion yuan, said Zhang Yan, an industrial expert.
Dai Bin, president of the China Tourism Academy, attributed the growing appeal of study trips to the joint push on both supply and demand sides.
"On one hand, kids and teenagers have become all the more eager to gain hands-on experiences about culture, history and nature, on the other hand, study trips have been meticulously choreographed, making them a lot more interactive and entertaining," Dai said.
China has attached great importance to the development of the relevant industry. In 2016, the Ministry of Education and 10 other government departments issued a guideline to promote study trips for primary and secondary school students, calling for efforts to promote healthy and rapid development.
A development plan for the tourism sector during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025), released by the State Council in January 2022, advocated the building of a batch of activity bases for study trips, featuring sound curriculum designs, distinctive activities and safety precautions.
Local governments have rolled out supportive policies in recent years, stressing that study trips should be well-designed to ensure that students can widen their horizons and achieve self-improvement while enjoying the process.
At the Fahai Temple Mural Art Center in Beijing, 18 primary and secondary school students were invited to be little volunteers. They followed the guide to explore different murals on display, inquiring about the history and creation process of frescoes, and attempted to engage with other visitors by explaining about the art center in English.
"I was a bit nervous to speak loudly in front of a lot of people, but finally I made it," a girl named Xuanxuan said with excitement, adding that she has learned a lot about murals during the activities and gained more interest in them now.
The art center has held various activities for kids during this summer vacation, including making frescoes, crafting Chinese knot buttons and taking a guided stroll along a nearby ancient path while listening to its captivating stories.
"It is so gratifying to see more and more kids show their willingness to learn about Chinese history, and I hope to protect historical relics and popularize the Chinese culture with them together," said Liu Xiaobo, curator of the art center.
As the market of study trips burgeons, relevant business entities are mushrooming. In the first five months of 2023, 322 enterprises related to study trips have been newly added, according to Qichacha, a platform offering information on companies in the country.
Products related to study trips are upgraded to cater to diverse market demands. In addition to courses that focus on gaining knowledge, activities such as experiencing intangible cultural heritage, sports competitions, and training camps related to robots are also emerging.
The increasing popularity of study trips not only reflects the growing emphasis of parents on education and the rapid recovery of the tourism market but also indicates people's heightened interest in accessing high-quality cultural resources, said Bo Wenguang, a senior researcher at Nankai University.
When demand for study trips was unleashed in the short term, complaints about the quality of these trips also surfaced.
Surging demand has put the capacity of popular traveling destinations to the test. "Long duration in queues for kids to enter museums or theme parks often leave very limited time for them to learn and play," said a woman surnamed Wang, a resident of Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.
Some parents also expressed concerns that their children do not receive sufficient guide services during study trips. As a result, some kids feel disinterested and may resort to playing with their mobile phones instead.
According to industry insiders, public services should be improved to better deal with problems such as long queues and insufficient guide services.
To enhance students' learning experiences and make study trips more enjoyable, many museums across China have extended their opening hours and made the entire experience more interactive. For instance, during the summer vacation, China's Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, has opened green channels for groups with more than 85 percent of juveniles.
Efforts should also be directed towards implementing regulations for study trips and providing regular vocational training for organizers involved in such activities, Bo said.
Promoting the healthy development of study trips calls for synergy, said Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, noting that alongside strengthening regulations, the supply of activity sites for public welfare should also be encouraged in order to provide convenience for parents and students to plan a study tour in ways they like.
The goal of study trips should return to education, he said.