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Cultural Infrastructure for the 21st Century

How is China influencing the future of Cultural Tourism?

​China’s investment in cultural infrastructure is poised to reshape the global tourism landscape. In a recent visit to the town of Anren near Chengdu in Sichuan province, China, we explored a cultural tourism cluster of significant interest for domestic tourists, and with great potential and interest for international visitors.

We hosted a study tour to the museum cluster of Anren of international experts from culture and tourism sectors and wrote an accompanying report on worldwide trends in Cultural Tourism. The tour and the report were commissioned by the local Mayor with the aim of gathering insights from world-class experts and to help promote the story of this still relatively new and still undiscovered cultural gem.

So, what, if anything, is the difference between cultural infrastructure projects in China and the West?

Some 150 years ago the cities of Europe laid the basis for what became the modern museum. In areas such as London’s Kensington or Berlin’s Museum Island, cultural districts were established. The greatest architects of the age were commissioned to create grand buildings in close proximity to one another alongside boulevards and squares. These museums and galleries housed the nation’s scientific and artistic treasures, many of them of course plundered from across their empires.

Today, China’s planners and city leaders are expanding and innovating on the cultural district concept. In Anren some two dozen museums and galleries have been carefully assembled within a gracefully landscaped park. Interspersed with monuments, public art installations and statues, the scale of the development is inspiring. Unlike Kensington, visitors need more than an afternoon and often travel by electric cart.

But the offer is more than abundance. The museum cluster differs from its 19th century forebears not just in its size but in the stories it tells. The collections are varied, detailed, and often moving. The curators have not plundered the world of its artefacts but generated a spirit of renewal and the promotion of understanding rather than triumphalism. It is a hopeful vision, not just for the future of China but for culture across the globe.

Our delegation included international experts from leading world-class institutions keen to learn more about the region and share their experience. We engaged with officials from the region, cultural specialists and local entrepreneurs, and participated in a range of seminars and discussion forums.

With the help of our assembled experts, we’ve made a series of recommendations for Anren as it takes its next steps in welcoming international visitors.

Our recommendation and full report here.

For more on China work see here.

If you would like to get in touch or if you’d like to organise an expert visit to your city please contact David Adam.

- Dave Adam, Associate; Tom Campbell, Head of Creative Economy, Knowledge Transfer Network

Image credit: BRWCCC