Shandong banks issue “barbecue loans” to support cottage industry

Zibo, a city in Shandong province, has been going viral on the Chinese internet recently due to an explosion of interest in its open-air barbecue night stalls. Banks in the area have now started offering dedicated “barbecue loans”.

Local banks are keen to support barbecue sellers to expand their businesses whilst footfall to the city remains high. According to Yicai Global, tourism in Zibo has soared by 164% year-on-year to reach a total of 4.8 million tourists checking in this season (Zibo’s population is around 4 million already).

The cumulative value of loans issued to barbecue sellers in Zibo reached 55.9653 million yuan recently, a year-on-year increase of 29%. Individual loans are for between 200,000 to 1 million RMB (28,800 – 144,000 USD), with interest rates typically at 4% and terms set at 1 to 3 years.

The city’s barbecue went viral earlier this month due to the food bloggers posting about it on Chinese social media. The down-to-earth dining style captured the imagination of netizens, many of whom are on the hunt for an authentic night market experience. Street vending has become harder to come by in large cities as modernisation takes over, but it is reportedly making a comeback as a way to tackle unemployment.

Zibo is just the latest “viral city”, whose stars tend to fade quickly after the novelty wears off. The “barbecue loans” are expected to enable businesses to expand to accommodate the recent demand, hopefully laying down a foundation for a more long-term reputation as a tourist hotspot.

Hotels in central Zibo are reportedly already close to being sold out for the period of the May Day national holiday, a five-day holiday starting from April 29.  As of April 27, “Zibo barbecue” has over 80,000 notes on Xiaohongshu and a whopping 500 million views on China’s Twitter equivalent Weibo.


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