Wuhan virus: Despite coronavirus quarantine, tourism booms in China - a million virtual tourists visited Lhasa's Potala Palace via Taobao Live

  • These Virtual tourists are spending real money on virtual tours and buying souvenirs

  • Alibaba's livestreaming unit Taobao Live has seen significant rise in number of virtual tourists

The virtual world concepts popularized in the anime may soon become a real-world scenario as the coronavirus shut down in China has now given a new lease of life to virtual tourism, where now millions are flocking and paying real money to enjoy some real-world travels while sitting in e confines of their respective homes.

The Potala Palace, located in Lhasa and is a popular landmark in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. With China shutting down its borders post coronavirus, the Palace decided to live streaming tour session on March 1, the first time in its over 1,300-year history.


And just like that virtual tourism has become a hit in China as close to one million people turned up online to take the guided tour of the palace. Since then several online portals have setup similar guide travel tours and facilities for virtual tourists to shop for souvenirs and crafts online.

The online tour started at around 2:00 pm local time on March 1 on China's popular e-commerce platform Taobao, according to the palace's management authority.


"Hi everyone! Welcome to our online field trip," a tour guide said, greeting his livestream audience as she proceeded through the foothill of the centuries-old fortress, giving virtual visitors a tour of the palace's artifacts, including sculptures and traditional Buddhist paintings.

The Potala Palace, built in the seventh century, is a model of ancient architecture and home to over 100,000 pieces of cultural relics. The palace, a UNESCO world heritage, has been shut down since January 27 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID 19).

The guide besides explaining to the tourists of the history and protection efforts being undertaken in the Potala Palace, also takes the virtual tourists inside hidden chambers and areas that are usually restricted to outsiders.

Alibaba's livestreaming unit Taobao Live understanding the potential in the online tourism industry also offers similar tours to museums, zoos, and aquariums.

It also features famous tourist attractions such as the Potala Palace, the Mogao Grottoes in the northwestern Gansu province, and the Chengdu Panda Base in the southwestern Sichuan province. The virtual tours are free, but the tourist sites make money by selling souvenirs to the virtual crowd.

The Chinese authorities, who have shut down all major tourist destinations such as the Palace Museum in Beijing and sections of the Great Wall to stop the contagious COVID 19 virus from spreading have also been encouraged state museums to switch to livestreaming.