CHANGSHA, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- A tourism exchange program between China and Russia is being held in central China's Hunan Province.
The program, which started on Monday, saw experts from the two countries meet to discuss the development of "red tours," those taking visitors to the sites of early communist activities.
Photography and painting exhibitions have also been held to promote red tourism between the two countries.
This was the third time that the program has been held in Hunan.
Red tourism is booming in both China and Russia, as the two governments have signed agreements to boost the industry in recent years.
In 2015, 22 tourism agencies from China and Russia agreed to conduct red tours during a tourism exchange program held in Shaoshan, birthplace of Mao Zedong. As direct flight routes continue to open and disposable incomes increase, more red tours have been organized.
In 2015, 4,497 Hunan residents visited Russia on red tours. In 2016, the number rose 72.27 percent year on year to 7,747.
To cater to the rising demand, Russian tourism authorities have launched a series of "red-themed" tourism products designed specifically for Chinese tourists. In St. Petersburg, known as Petrograd from 1914 to 1924, the local government touts products associated with the Soviet Union to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, including itineraries with the themes "Chinese Comrades in Red Petrograd" and the "February Revolution in Petrograd."
Meanwhile, China's red tourist sites, where its early communist activities began, are drawing a large number of Russian tourists, particularly those in Hunan Province, which currently has 140 such sites.
Hunan received 35,025 Russian tourists in 2016, up 31.66 percent year on year. The number of Russian tourists to Hunan grew 13.06 percent year on year to 14,523 in the first half this year.
"Red tours play an important part in enhancing the friendship between the peoples of the two countries," said Xue Yaping with the National Tourism Administration.