JINAN - If renowned Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius were to wake up and see a high-speed train passing through his hometown, it is conceivable that he might feel the urge to hop on and take a trip to Beijing or Shanghai. After all, it would take him less than a few hours to do so, courtesy of China's latest high-speed railway endeavor.
The 1,318-km Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway line, due to open at the end of this month, will allow travelers to visit three municipalities and four provinces in less than 5 hours, with top speeds of trains traveling up to 300 km per hour.
China's railway ministry announced Monday that a one-way high-speed rail ticket between Beijing and Shanghai will cost between 410 yuan ($63) and 1,750 yuan.
The railway will not only shuttle tourists between Beijing and Shanghai, but will also bring travelers from the two booming cities to other places along the way, said Yu Chong, director of the Shandong Provincial Tourism Bureau.
"The high-speed railway will boost tourism in East China, specifically by increasing the number of weekend trips," said Zhang Weiguo, director of the Economic Research Institute at the Shandong Academy of Social Sciences.
With the new railway in service, tourists will be able to easily make round-trip journeys between Beijing and Shanghai on weekends, cutting down overall travel time and giving tourists more time to visit multiple locations, Zhang said.
To brace itself for the potential tourism boom, Qufu, a town in East China's Shandong province where Confucius was born more than 2,500 years ago, has stepped up the construction of roads and other infrastructure.
A new avenue named after Confucius has been completed, connecting the town's newly established high-speed railway station with its Confucius-related cultural heritage sites.
The high-speed railway will string together several prominent tourism destinations, including Confucius' birthplace of Qufu; Mount Taishan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the China's most sacred mountains, as well as Nanjing, capital of six ancient dynasties and home to numerous imperial mausoleums.
Eight of Shandong's cities, including Jinan, Tai'an and Qingdao, set up a high-speed railway tourism union in April to enhance their competitive power and allow them to create new tourism packages and services.
Jiang Yining, a 26-year-old office worker in Beijing, recalled a past trip during which she took an overnight train to Mount Taishan while going to college in Shanghai.
"It was a long journey. It was also very hard to buy a train ticket during the holidays," she said.
Jiang rescheduled a trip to Shanghai for July after learning that the high-speed rail service will be launched in late June.
"The new line saves time and offers me more travel options," she said.
Wang Degang, director of the Department of Tourism Management with Shandong University, said the railway will bring new talent and capital from the two metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai to other cities and towns on the route, as businesses in the larger cities will pursue lower costs and larger markets in smaller cities.
"It will be a great opportunity for the local tourism industries of the smaller cities and towns to prosper, as an increasing number of business trips will stimulate the development of high-level tourism facilities and services," said Wang.