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The Modern Marco Polo

The Chinese city of Hangzhou has appointed a unique new recruit who will

follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo and become the city’s foreign

tourism ambassador for a year.

A global recruitment campaign has concluded with the announcement of

26-year-old Liam Bates as the first such ambassador to China, with a free

19-day trip to Hangzhou and a €40,000 salary as his reward for telling

the world about the city, including via social media.

The Hangzhou Tourism Commission has been running the Modern Marco Polo

campaign via its Facebook page since March 2013. Nearly 26,000 worldwide

entries to the “Be the Modern Marco Polo Experience Programme” were

submitted and Liam Bates was announced as the successful candidate at a

press conference in Hangzhou on the morning of Tuesday 20th May.

Having grown up in the UK and Switzerland, Liam comes from a multinational

background, with a British father and an American mother. He studied at

the University of British Columbia in Canada and currently lives in

Beijing, having first visited China as a 17-year-old boy.

Hangzhou in south-eastern China is one of the country’s biggest cities

but retains its beautiful scenery and attractions such as West Lake – a

UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Grand Canal, which is bidding to be

granted the same status. The success of the Modern Marco Polo campaign led

to Hangzhou being the most Googled destination in China in 2013 and the

aim now is to build on these positive results by attracting increasing

numbers of international tourists.

Legendary Italian traveller Marco Polo, one of the first westerners to

visit Hangzhou back in 13th century, described it as: “The City of

Heaven, the most beautiful and magnificent in the world.”

The city is well connected, with its international airport serving

destinations in Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia, while rail services

see direct trains link to more than 50 cities, including 12 daily services

to Beijing and more than 100 to Shanghai. Within Hangzhou itself, a new

metro network was opened in 2012 and continues to expand. The first

bike-share scheme in China was established in the city in 2008 and has

grown to be the biggest in the world, with 66,500 bikes operating from

2,700 stations.

Liam will now embark on his journey in and around Hangzhou during which he

will gain an insight into Chinese culture and heritage, including Chinese

tea, silk, traditional medicines, the art of sigillography (seal making)

and martial arts.

Commenting on his new role as the Modern Marco Polo, Liam said: “It’s

great news. I’m really excited and look forward to learning more about

Hangzhou and telling the world about the many attractions of both the city

and Chinese culture.

“I think one of the fascinating things about Marco Polo was his bridging

of two cultures, teaching the East and West about each other. It’s a

privilege to be able to follow in his footsteps and act as a 21st Century

source of information about China.”

Mr. Zhao Hongzhong, spokesperson for the Hangzhou Tourism Commission,

said: “We have searched across the globe for the Modern Marco Polo and

have been looking for someone who is energetic, adventurous and loves a


“We are delighted to appoint Liam to the role. He possesses all of the

right qualities and we have no doubt that he will be an excellent

representative for Hangzhou over the coming year. Our city is an ideal

destination for tourists and we look forward to Liam telling the world

about all that Chinese culture has to offer.”

You can view the video submitted by Liam Bates

<> as part of his application

to become the Modern Marco Polo.

For more information about Hangzhou, visit


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