Chinese industrial city of Zibo now a tourist hot spot thanks to its barbecue
The little-known industrial city of Zibo in East China’s Shandong province has turned into a trendy tourist destination – after it found fame online because of its local barbecue.
The factory town was so popular that it had the highest hotel room occupancy rates in the country for the five-day May Day holiday – which ended on Wednesday – according to data from booking app Meituan.
Local media also said train tickets for the Beijing-Zibo route for the holiday period were snapped up in under a minute after their release.
Zibo became a hot spot in March following rave reviews from a group of students who went back to the city to reminisce about the food and their positive experience while in quarantine there in 2022, according to the official People’s Daily.
Later, a popular content creator visited the city, known for its petrochemicals, textiles and porcelain factories, and sparked discussion online after he pointed out the generous portions served by food vendors there.
In March, the city received 4.8 million visitors – more than its population of 4.7 million.
In Zibo, barbecue diners grill skewers themselves on their own little stoves. They then wrap the meat and scallions in small pancakes and eat it with a dipping sauce.
According to Singaporean Chinese-language daily Lianhe Zaobao, each skewer costs about 1.5 yuan to 3 yuan (S$0.30 to S$0.60) and a meal can cost about 50 yuan to 70 yuan per person.
While some tourists were disappointed as the barbecue was often sold out during the May Day holiday, others were still glad to soak in the atmosphere, the newspaper reported.
It also said that there are more than 5,000 barbecue-related businesses in Zibo, with a fifth of them added in the first four months of 2023 alone.
But not all stalls can keep up with the crowds.
A video of a Chinese barbecue restaurant boss who knelt down in front of a customer and begged for forgiveness because the queue to get into his premises was too long has gone viral in China, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported.
The incident happened on April 27, two days before the May Day holiday started.
An employee told Chinese media that the restaurant could serve only 200 people daily – the unlucky customer was number 201.
The local authorities had advised people to avoid visiting during the holiday, warning that the city would struggle to cope with the surge of visitors.