Changsha – An International Tourist Destination?

Changsha’s government is hoping to see Changsha as an international vacation destination by 2020. The local officials here feel this lofty goal is reasonable after it hit 1,000,000 tourists in 2013 (whether that is so far or a projection for the year is unclear).

Mao Zedong’s childhood home

I live here. I love living here. Some days the smog makes it impossible to breathe, open your windows, or see the building that is just across the alley, but it is far from becoming any kind of a tourist destination, much less an international one.

The problem with the plan that the city’s officials have outlined is that, well, there is no real plan for achieving this goal. The only plans they have are things that will increase the quality of life for locals, but not attract tourists. The plan released talks about how “Changsha city government has added more than 80 community parks in the past three years and 700,000 square meters of green space.” This is awesome, but not something that will attract tourists. The city also says that it “has many varieties of flowers and plants planted in grassy medians along main roads and important areas, so the city appears as if it is in a perpetual state of springtime.” I don’t think the word “springtime” means the same thing for Changsha officials as it does for normal people. I live here and I haven’t seen this boom in flowers. Also, Changsha has no springtime. It goes from winter to summer back to winter. And the perpetual smog prevents any real feeling of springtime with sunshine and chirping birds. 

At Window of the World


Changsha does have a lot going for it. It is on the fast train line, only 2.5 hours (or less) from Guangzhou. It’s now only 6 hours from Beijing. It also has a very nice international airport. The city has tons of hotels (one 5 star hotel with more coming), Chinese and western restaurants, and will have a new subway system open by October, making it very easy to come and stay here. 
Changsha has one of the best zoos in the country, Yuelu mountain, and Shaoshan, Mao Zedong’s hometown. It has the Grand Hunan Theater and Mawangdui tombs. Hunan also has a very unique food culture. These things are all great for locals or people in Hunan, but none of that is worth making the trip here. 

The biggest thing (literally and figuratively) that Changsha has going for it is the coming world’s tallest building. That is something that people might come from all over the world to see. But that is quickly going to fade. If Broad Group is successful in building a structure of this size in 3 months, they will be copied. More tall buildings will pop up around the world and Changsha will soon just be on a list of tall buildings. 

At the Changsha zoo

Changsha needs something unique to draw tourists. It doesn’t have the beautiful mountains of Guilin, the pandas of Chengdu, the history of Xian, or the international appeal of Shanghai. While the city is a great place to live (it has lots of jobs and a low cost of living), it lacks that special “something” to draw tourists in significant numbers. Until the city find’s it’s spark, it won’t achieve it’s goal of being an international tourist destination by 2020. Of course, a lot can change in that time. If I’m still here in 2020 and Changsha is the tourist destination it dreams it will be, I’ll eat my words.