China ‘wild trip’ deaths put social media influencers in spotlight | China

Chinese social media influencers and their platforms have come under fire for their posts about “wild travel” – or visiting off-grid locations – after a huge flood killed seven tourists in Sichuan province.

The tragedy on August 13 left seven tourists dead and eight injured after a flash flood hit a valley in Mengzhou, in the southwest of the country.

Video clips of the disaster circulating online showed the water level in a creek rising rapidly, washing away a number of tourists in seconds.

On social media, many expressed their shock and sadness over the drownings. State-run outlet the Global Times has slammed social media influencers for creating content promoting “wild travel destinations” without regard to public safety.

“Warning signs and chain-link fences were erected and even security personnel were dispatched to warn visitors, but these measures proved mostly ineffective,” he said in an article. opinion.

The Sichuan Valley, known as Longcaogou, is actually a flood channel prone to flooding and mudslides. The region has become a tourist attraction only thanks to the promotions of influencers on social networks.

The concept of “wild journeys” or “yeyou” in Chinese, which refers to trips to off-grid locations such as Longcaogou started to take off in China in 2020.

Most wild travel destinations become popular thanks to internet influencers promoting them as “secret resorts” on social media platforms such as Douyin, China’s equivalent of TikTok, and the Instagram-like Little Red Book. Places often go from obscure to known in a short time and are characterized by their proximity to nature.

At a time when conventional tourism is frequently disrupted due to Covid restrictions, ‘wild trips’ serve as a convenient substitute for more traditional vacations, allowing city dwellers to enjoy nature on the outskirts of the city without making long journeys and be exposed to large crowds.

“I had planned to travel around the country when I retired but with all the Covid restrictions these days I have to give it up because you don’t know when you’ll end up quarantined in your city destination,” says a 55-year-old woman who identifies as Li. She now takes a day trip to the mountainous areas around her town in the southern province of Guangxi almost every weekend with his friends, and usually shares photos and videos on his Douyin account afterwards.

The new travel craze has also led to a boom in outdoor equipment sales across the country. According to the Hangzhou Daily, China’s camping equipment market grew from 7.71 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) to 16.8 billion yuan between 2014 and 2020. Last year, that figure rose to 29.9 billion yuan and is expected to reach 35.46 billion yuan this year.

But this isn’t the first time the wild travel trend has resulted in loss of life. In 2020, a flash flood in the Duobi Valley in Enshi, Hubei province, killed 13 people.

The deaths of tourists in Sichuan this month have led to renewed calls for greater industry scrutiny of wild travel, including how it is promoted online and through the media.

“With respect to tourist sites that have not been commercially developed and pose potential security risks, media platforms should be required to issue security alerts and monitor content,” Xu Guilin, partner of the Beijing-based Jurisino Law Group, told the Beijing Youth Daily.

“Publishers of such content should also remind the public of the potential danger of a destination. Otherwise, platforms and publishers would have to bear some legal responsibility.

Almost all posts promoting Longcaogou have now been removed from Douyin and Little Red Book and a security alert appears at the top of the screen when searching for Longcaogou on both apps.

There is no evidence to suggest influencer accounts have been suspended for promoting Longcaogou, but content creators who post about visiting the rivers around Pengzhou are becoming targets of angry netizens.

Under a post on an official scenic spot known as Huilonggou Valley, a Douyin user wrote, “If it wasn’t for people like you, would these people be dead? Don’t you feel partly responsible? How can you sleep at night?

About Madeline Powers

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