Every experience opens us up to new opportunities, as Sissi Liu can tell you. After working in logistics for over a decade, Liu took what she learned and applied it to tourism. The Jiangxi native has lived in Guangdong’s capital city, Guangzhou, since 2003 and founded Banana Tour to provide the international community with a unique array of tours to some of the province’s hidden gems. We reached out to Liu to learn how she got Banana Tour off the ground and get some travel recommendations.
What inspired you to start Banana Tour?
I was working in purchasing and logistics for a German company for over 12 years before I started running Banana Tour. I was given plenty of opportunities to organize company trips as well as arranging tours for visiting clients while at my previous job. With the purchasing and sourcing skills I gained, I realized that I had a knack for finding secret and nice places to explore, and I speculated that the expat community might be interested in weekend tours as well. Banana Tour was founded at the end of 2018, with our purpose to help foreigners better understand Guangzhou’s rural areas and be able to escape from the city during weekends.
Since you started, what are some of the marketing methods you’ve used to get the word out about upcoming tours?
We created a public WeChat account on day one of Banana Tour. I posted event pictures via my WeChat Moments and it attracted lots of people to follow our account. Gradually, I was able to create a WeChat event group chat to bring together our fans and people interested in receiving tourism information. They can easily see our upcoming tours on these channels.
“Guangdong people are low-key, friendly and inclusive, which also plays an important role in the good reputation of Guangdong tourism”
Guangdong is known to have a good reputation for tourism. Why do you think that is?
Guangdong province owns abundant tourism resources. It has more than 4,000 kilometers of coastline, and is also rich in landscape scenery, including mountains and caves, lakes and gorges. Guangdong’s cultural tourism is also unique. National historical and cultural cities such as Guangzhou, Foshan, Chaozhou, Meizhou, Zhaoqing and others boast diverse and colorful cultural landscapes. Guangdong people are low-key, friendly and inclusive, which also plays an important role in the good reputation of Guangdong tourism.
What are some tourist sites you would recommend for travelers coming from outside the province?
Guangzhou Shamian Island, Kaiping Diaolou and Villages, Shaoguan Danxia Mountain, Huizhou Daya Bay, Zhuhai Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, Qingyuan Gulongxia Glass Grand Canyon and so on are the classic scenic spots that cannot be missed when traveling in Guangdong.
When arranging a group of travelers from different backgrounds, what are some difficulties you’ve experienced as a tour guide?
There is an old Chinese saying that no dish suits all tastes. When we are arranging meals for guests from different cultural backgrounds with their own living habits, we need to coordinate and adjust meals according to actual needs. However, due to the limited catering options and reception capacity of the places we visit, we can only strive for a balance that best fits everyone’s needs.
What’s in store for Banana Tour in 2021?
We plan to explore Hunan and Guangxi provinces in the first month of 2021, and of course, more exploration tours around Guangdong province will be held over the next year.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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[Images provided by Sissi Liu]