Avatar’s new role: promoter for China’s unique Zhangjiajie national forest park

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NEW YORK, April 15 (Xinhua) — Hollywood 3D blockbuster Avatar has recently got a new role — promoting tourism for a unique national forest park located in Zhangjiajie City in central China’s Hunan Province.

“These pillar-like mountain formations are the prototype for Avatar’s fictive diorama of hanging, mist-shrouded peaks where Pandora’s fearsome ‘ikran’ dragon birds had their nesting grounds,” said Wang Zhaoye, Vice Secretary General of Zhangjiajie City, to a group of representatives from New York’s tourism industry on Friday.

Wang was showing a video clip about the immense, scenic spread of mountain pillars in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, located 32 km from Zhangjiajie City, that appeared in the 2009 James Cameron movie.

Over 61 million tourists visited Zhangjiajie in 2016, an increase of 21 percent over the year before, said Wang, who is leading a tourism marketing team in the United States.

“Yet among all the tourists, Americans only account for 0.0003 percent,” Wang said. “That’s why we are here.”

The Chinese official has every reason to use Avatar to draw attention of his American audience to the city. In the 160-minute movie, there are about 20 minutes of scenes that were inspired by the strikingly beautiful Zhangjiajie.

“It is other worldly, it is from other world, we were not prepared to see it, everything is unbelievable, just say, otherworldly, you thought you were in another world, so it is an extraordinary experience,” Simone Olivier Bassous, executive director, Pacific Asia Travel Association New York Chapter, told Xinhua about her visit to Zhangjiajie in the 1980s.

“I am among the first Americans who visited Zhangjiajie,” Bassous said. “If you don’t go, you don’t feel it. You have to see to believe it. I wish telling my clients, this is the Grand Canyon in China, same extraordinary, huge experience.”

She said the Grand Canyon is “very special,” so is Zhangjiajie.

“Everybody who goes there has a spiritual connection with it, it is there, it is how you connect it with, Zhang Jiajie is the same place, you see it, it does something to you.”

When visiting Zhangjiajie in 1986, the then lieutenant governor of the Colorado State of America, Nancy. E. Dick, exclaimed that visitors to Zhangjiajie should pay five dollars for every breath. Indeed, Zhangjiajie is a huge “natural oxygen bar.”

Bassous has great confidence in the future of Zhangjiajie’s tourism.

“It has a future which is extraordinary for tourism. I should go back because since those days, you have arranged so many other ways to visit it, say the glass sky walk.”

Bassous was referring to the world’s longest and highest glass bridge in Zhangjiajie.

The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge opened to the public on Aug. 20, 2016. It offers a way to enjoy a panoramic view of the stunning Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon — if you dare to walk on it!

by Xinhua writer Yang Shilong

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