How Asian Social Media Transformed a Quiet U.K. Walking Spot


EAST SUSSEX, England — To an internet journey web site well-liked with youthful Chinese language vacationers, the cliffs about two hours’ drive south of London are a “windy paradise.” In June, a South Korean actress shared an image of herself on the cliffs, together with a video through which she stands uncomfortably near the vertiginous edge. And the celebrities of a Korean actuality tv present visited them in a spring episode.

“After we seek for London on social media, it’s the very first thing we see,” Hyeon Hui Shin, a 28-year-old vacationer from South Korea, mentioned of the East Sussex cliffs, referred to as the Seven Sisters. “I didn’t understand it was so removed from London!”

The Seven Sisters — stark, white chalk cliffs going through the English Channel — have lengthy been well-liked amongst hikers, a hardy, “strolling sort,” mentioned Fran Downton, a advertising and marketing supervisor at Tourism South East, the area’s vacationer board.

However over the previous two years, guests from China have been more and more hopping on trains to make day journeys right here from London. Vacationers from South Korea have now began becoming a member of them. And they’re largely impressed by the cliffs’ appearances in social media, movies — particularly the “Harry Potter” collection — and by suggestions from celebrities.

This summer season, the burgeoning customer demographic was clear to see, with individuals lining the cliffs’ edge, posing for images. The variety of guests to East Sussex from that area has additionally been up even within the cooler fall months.

When Ms. Shin got here from South Korea to see a pal learning close to London, a go to to the cliffs was a precedence.

The brand new guests additionally replicate a broader change in Britain’s tourism demographics. The nation’s tourism company, Go to Britain, notes in its annual studies that younger, social media-savvy guests are more and more making their method to Britain from China and South Korea.

“They’re impartial, on the lookout for one thing totally different,” Ms. Downton mentioned. “They don’t wish to be herded round.”

Her company has employed a Chinese language scholar to publish on the Chinese language platform WeChat and assist attain this viewers. On his recommendation, it switched from URLs to QR codes on promotional literature and began to publicize Chinese language eating places, together with info on the place native fare like fish and chips might be discovered.

It additionally began offering extra info on public transport for the extra impartial vacationers.

“We don’t prefer to observe excursions,” mentioned Shi Yu Liu, 42, a hip-hop dancer and instructor from China. “You’ll have to depart in a short time. You possibly can’t take pleasure in it.”

However this took not one of the allure away for vacationers on the cliff prime, who have been nonetheless in a position to snap images with the ocean as a backdrop. Mates took turns photographing each other leaping within the air, the shutters pausing just for individuals to repair their hair. Though this summer season in Britain was unusually scorching, the wind on the coast was as brisk as ever.

The vacationers all had an analogous response when requested how they knew in regards to the Seven Sisters. “It’s well-known!” was the widespread chorus.

The looks there by the South Korean actress, Search engine optimization Hyo Rim, got here shortly after a go to to the cliffs by the celebrities of One Night time Sleepover Journey, a Korean actuality tv present. And the Taiwanese singer Jay Chou set certainly one of his music movies there.

In Croatia, one of many fundamental filming areas for the favored HBO collection “Recreation of Thrones” has drawn throngs of vacationers, shortly elevating fears of “over-tourism” there. Britain’s tourism companies, who wish to capitalize on the rising curiosity within the Seven Sisters, are additionally apprehensive about that — and about selling the place with out over-commercializing it.

“It’s fairly a trek from London down right here and again once more,” mentioned Philip Evans, the top of tourism on the native council. He needs to make individuals’s journey’s worthwhile, he mentioned, but additionally feels that the realm must be “preserved and never ruined by utilization.”

Some vacationers are already on the hunt for extra hidden gems. “I believe too many Koreans go to right here,” mentioned Hye Jin Park, a 26-year-old elementary schoolteacher. “So later once I journey, I wish to go to extra native locations, not well-known.”


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