Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
China Daily Global / 2021-05 / 14 / Page010

Virtual tours keeping 'travel' alive and well

By HE WEI in Shanghai | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-14 00:00

Overseas tourist spots get Chinese attention despite COVID restrictions

While the COVID-19 pandemic has severely hampered international travel, would-be Chinese tourists still managed to get a glimpse of France's iconic Louvre Museum via their mobile phones.

The virtual tour last year took nearly 400,000 online audience members to the art museum's famous masterpieces-such as the Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa as well as areas off limits to the general public.

The two-hour tour was co-hosted by Cecile Reverdy, a French tour guide who learned Chinese from the 1980s and, in the past 25 years, conducted countless Chinese language tours across Parisian landmarks via offline trips.

The idea of hosting a virtual tour first emerged in April last year, when the pandemic began to unfold in Europe and sealed off incoming visitors from abroad. Backed by Fliggy, the online tourist arm of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Reverdy sampled with livestreaming tours together with museum executives.

"It's actually a bit different from conducting offline tours, because I need to deal with technological glitches such as bad connections at times, and should do in-depth research on certain exhibits, given that the routes are specifically designed or confined to a certain route," she said.

Virtual sightseeing services are among efforts designed to help museums and other tourist attractions continue connecting with Chinese netizens at a time when the coronavirus outbreak has halted international travel.

Reverdy's livestreaming sessions at the Palace of Versailles and the Musee d'Orsay garnered 100,000 and 570,000 viewerships, respectively. She said translating for Chinese audiences through a phone camera can be both challenging and entertaining, which requires her to act spontaneously when taking long transit tours to the next exhibit.

Instead of simply recording a video, Reverdy said livestreaming gives customers an opportunity to interact with the host and ask questions, all in real time.

"I have to admit that I don't have time to interact with the audience in time. But when I read their messages afterward, I still feel motivated and encouraged."

Jean-Luc Martinez, president of the Louvre, told news site Alizila that: "Although you can't come and see us right now because of the pandemic, thanks to our partnership with Alibaba ... you will have the opportunity to learn about our collections."

The Louvre-Alibaba partnership includes everything from e-commerce to culture and content. As part of the collaboration, Alifish, the company's online licensing platform, helped produce a special program on Alibaba's video-streaming platform Youku that focused on the Louvre's masterpieces and their historical significance.

The pandemic has catalyzed widespread adoption of livestreaming in China, turning it into a key communications and marketing tool.

Eager to draw virtual crowds of Chinese tourists and answer to the same digital pivot in their own countries, storied Western museums like Spain's Prado Museum and the British Museum in London have enlisted Fliggy to help them embrace the method.

For instance, a two-hour livestream tour of London's Natural History Museum broadcast this January attracted 100,000 Chinese viewers within the first minute, as participants were shown exhibits that highlight the importance of biodiversity and the public's role in maintaining it.

The institution's senior curator, Jon Ablett, and executive director of science, Tim Littlewood, also spoke directly to viewers as part of the behind-the-scenes experience, before a question-and-answer session concluded proceedings.

"It's been wonderful to reopen our doors, albeit virtually, to millions of people across China through our partnership with Fliggy," said Brad Irwin, head of international partnerships at the Natural History Museum in London.

Across the broader Alibaba ecosystem, livestreaming has become a norm to promote physical and virtual services. AliExpress, a business-to-consumer site selling goods and services to overseas consumers, plans to recruit as many as 100,000"promoters" who will help merchants and brands on AliExpress promote through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other popular internet platforms.

Besides popular influencers, the platform is also seeking talented content creators for behind the camera and seasoned marketers with access to customer acquisition channels.

Among them is Dima Romashko, a 29-year-old Ukrainian TV host for a music channel, who touted livestreaming as a "life-changing experience" where he gained experience speaking to mass audiences.

"When I'm livestreaming and introducing products, I always think about how I can let my audience know more about me and how I can gain their trust," said Romashko, who promotes everything from headphones to cosmetics and apparel.

He typically hosts three shows per week, each lasting 30 minutes to three hours. With some 300,000 followers across all popular social media networks, his best-performing records include the sale of 3,000 tech gadgets and 1,000 items of clothing, each during a single show.

Amateurs-turned influencers on AliExpress like Romashko began springing up as the site had some 150 million buyers by the end of last year. The platform has thus galvanized into action, launching a dedicated initiative this year called AliExpress Connect to help influencers sell through the marketplace.

Under the program, influencers and those who want to launch an influencer career can access collaboration opportunities, both with AliExpress and with brands that are selling through the platform. In return, they will be rewarded for creating original content that helps brands sell their products and brings new customers to the sellers.

Foreign hosts are excited about the burgeoning opportunities, which essentially turns them into ambassadors connecting China with the rest of the world.

Reverdy said the pandemic gives her an opportunity to finish her long-overdue doctoral thesis in studying the different meanings of smiles in Chinese opera, and that will help people better comprehend the local culture in depth and complexity.

"I am planning to turn my thesis into a book. And I am also looking to do some in-depth tours for Chinese in some lesser-known areas, such as La Rive Gauche of Paris," she said.

Romashko said he was excited to be a witness of the changing attitudes toward Chinese products in the past three years as a livestreamer.

"Years ago, many people didn't trust Chinese products. Today the quality is rapidly rising, with Xiaomi, DJI and Huawei rising to become such prominent brands and smaller brands also making their names," he said. "I am happy about the changes because I know the quality (is good). I am also happy because I can now share such quality products with Western friends."




Tourists visit the Louvre Museum on its reopening day after months of closure due to COVID-19 related lockdowns, in Paris, on July 6, last year. GETTY IMAGES



The entrance of the Louvre Museum in Paris is decorated with Chinese paper-cut ornaments in 2019 before the COVID-19 broke out. MI JIAFENG/FOR CHINA DAILY



Most Viewed

Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349