How Asian Social Media Transformed a Quiet U.K. Walking Spot
EAST SUSSEX, England — To an online travel site popular with younger Chinese travelers, the cliffs about two hours’ drive south of London are a “windy paradise.” In June, a South Korean actress shared a picture of herself at the cliffs, along with a video in which she stands uncomfortably close to the vertiginous edge. And the stars of a Korean reality television show visited them in a spring episode.
“When we search for London on social media, it’s the first thing we see,” Hyeon Hui Shin, a 28-year-old tourist from South Korea, said of the East Sussex cliffs, known as the Seven Sisters. “I didn’t know it was so far from London!”
The Seven Sisters — stark, white chalk cliffs facing the English Channel — have long been popular among hikers, a hardy, “walking type,” said Fran Downton, a marketing manager at Tourism South East, the region’s tourist board.
七姐妹崖——面对着英吉利海峡、光秃秃的白色白垩质峭壁——一直都很受徒步者的欢迎，是条件艰苦、“徒步式的旅游地”，该地区的旅游机构东南旅游(Tourism South East)的市场营销经理弗兰·唐顿(Fran Downton)说。
But over the past two years, visitors from China have been increasingly hopping on trains to make day trips here from London. Travelers from South Korea have now started joining them. And they are largely inspired by the cliffs’ appearances in social media, films — especially the “Harry Potter” series — and by recommendations from celebrities.
This summer, the burgeoning visitor demographic was clear to see, with people lining the cliffs’ edge, posing for photos. The number of visitors to East Sussex from that region has also been up even in the cooler fall months.
When Ms. Shin came from South Korea to see a friend studying near London, a visit to the cliffs was a priority.
“It’s the first thing: I told her I want to see Seven Sisters,” she said, explaining in the blustery wind that the cliffs caught her imagination before Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and even the white cliffs at Dover.
Local officials see the influx of visitors as an opportunity. The local council’s tourism branch is considering adding a visitor center and looking at ways to entice these international travelers to stay longer and explore nearby towns. It is also looking for partner organizations in China to help with promotion.
The new visitors also reflect a broader change in Britain’s tourism demographics. The country’s tourism agency, Visit Britain, notes in its annual reports that young, social media-savvy visitors are increasingly making their way to Britain from China and South Korea.
“They are independent, looking for something different,” Ms. Downton said. “They don’t want to be herded around.”
Her agency has hired a Chinese student to post on the Chinese platform WeChat and help reach this audience. On his advice, it switched from URLs to QR codes on promotional literature and started to publicize Chinese restaurants, along with information on where local fare like fish and chips can be found.
It also started providing more information on public transport for the more independent travelers.
“We don’t like to follow tours,” said Shi Yu Liu, 42, a hip-hop dancer and teacher from China. “You may have to leave very quickly. You can’t enjoy it.”
He and his friends had driven to the cliffs, stopping off at Brighton to enjoy oysters and smoked fish. For them, the visit to the British countryside was a wholesome way to escape the frenetic pace of life in Guangzhou, where they live.
“In China, there are lots of people,” Mr. Liu said. “You can enjoy the time here.”
One of his companions, 27-year-old Natalie Chi, a gallery manager, proclaimed that the cliffs looked just as good as they did when they appeared in the film Atonement. “It makes me feel like humans are so small,” she said.
他的同伴，27岁的画廊经理娜塔莉·齐（Natalie Chi，音）说，这些悬崖看上去和电影《赎罪》(Atonement)里一样美。 “它让我觉得人类如此渺小，”她说。
The growing number of visitors has raised concerns about the risks of having so many people high up on the cliffs. Last year, Hyewon Kim, a Korean student, died after losing her footing there. Before that, Beachy Head, a nearby headland, was known as a spot where people died by suicide.
游客越来越多，也让人更加担心，高耸的悬崖上有这么多人会有风险。去年，韩国学生金惠媛（Hyewon Kim，音）在这里失足堕崖身亡。在此之前，附近名叫比奇角(Beachy Head)的岬角曾被视为自杀胜地。
There is danger of the cliffs crumbling, too. They recede by about 10 to 15 inches a year, and over two months in 2014, about 16 feet of cliff crumbled to the east of the Seven Sisters, the equivalent of seven years of erosion. This August, a beach on the eastern side of the cliffs was closed for several days after parts of the cliff became unstable.
But this took none of the charm away for tourists on the cliff top, who were still able to snap photos with the sea as a backdrop. Friends took turns photographing one another jumping in the air, the shutters pausing only for people to fix their hair. Although this summer in Britain was unusually hot, the wind at the coast was as brisk as ever.
The tourists all had a similar response when asked how they knew about the Seven Sisters. “It’s famous!” was the common refrain.
The appearance there by the South Korean actress, Seo Hyo Rim, came shortly after a visit to the cliffs by the stars of One Night Sleepover Trip, a Korean reality television show. And the Taiwanese singer Jay Chou set one of his music videos there.
韩国真人秀节目让我留宿一晚(One Night Sleepover Trip)的明星访问这座悬崖后不久，韩国女演员徐孝琳(Seo Hyo Rim)也出现在这里。台湾歌手周杰伦在那里拍摄了他的一部音乐录影。
In Croatia, one of the main filming locations for the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” has drawn throngs of tourists, quickly raising fears of “over-tourism” there. Britain’s tourism agencies, who want to capitalize on the growing interest in the Seven Sisters, are also worried about that — and about promoting the place without over-commercializing it.
“It’s quite a trek from London down here and back again,” said Philip Evans, the head of tourism at the local council. He wants to make people’s journey’s worthwhile, he said, but also feels that the area should be “preserved and not ruined by usage.”
“从伦敦来到这里再返回是非常精彩的旅行。”地方议会旅游负责人菲利普·埃文斯(Philip Evans)说。 他说，他希望让人们的旅程变得有价值，但也觉得这个地区应该“妥善保护，不要因使用而毁坏”。
Some tourists are already on the hunt for more hidden gems. “I think too many Koreans visit here,” said Hye Jin Park, a 26-year-old elementary schoolteacher. “So later when I travel, I want to visit more local places, not famous.”
一些游客已经在寻找更多隐藏的宝石。 “我觉得来这里的韩国人太多了，”26岁的小学教师朴惠真（Hye Jin Park，音）说。 “所以后来我旅行时，我想去更本土化的地方，而不是有名的地方。”