Rural tourism promoted in China

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    from news items on China, after I noticed an item in the South China Morning Post:

    Following the conduct of the first Rural Tourism Festival earlier this year, China plans to finance 10,000 villages by the year of 2010 to help promote the tourism development in the rural areas. The China National Tourism Administration has now put forward a suggestion, planning to enlarge support to the tourism industry in China’s rural area and advance the rural travel service system, helping the countryside explore its travel market and strengthen tourism personnel training. Following this suggestion, China will be able to provide 350,000 job opportunities for farmers and their net income is expected to increase by five percent by the year of 2010.

    Earlier this month, Shanghai took a major step to modernize its agriculture, improve the lives of farmers and equalize government infrastructure spending between rural and suburban areas. The new investment will be used to build a better public transport system, including a bus network among villages, more roads and several Metro lines linking the suburbs to the downtown. In the proposal’s environmental protection area, the government is urged to conserve historic structures, including bridges, old villages and canal towns, and help develop rural tourism, including bed-and-breakfast inns.

    Earlier this year in April, China’s first Rural Tourism Festival was held at Jinjiang District of Chengdu, the capital city of southwest China’s Sichuan Province. The Festival formed a significant part of the rural tourism industry in 2006. It played a part in “China Rural Tourism Year”, organized by National Tourism Administration.

    Also known as the “Cradle of the Happy Rural Family”, Chengdu has 5,596 households now engaged in the business of rural tourism. The sector directly employs 58,000 people. Related industries employ 290,000 people. As at the end of 2005, direct earnings were about US$91.1 million, with the relevant industries raking in about US$203.5 million, as per the information available.

    Xiong Shiying, in her early 40s, never dreamed that her remote village would become a hot tourist spot and her poor family could become rich.

    Flourishing rural tourism in recent years has helped her family escape poverty, along with 170 other households in Nanhua Village of Miao minority in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

    Her annual family income has soared from 200 U.S. dollars eight years ago to nearly 4,000 U.S. dollars.

    Xiong and her husband started to run a small restaurant in 1998, where they offered Miao-style wine and food, like sausages, bacon, and glutinous rice cake. Their elderly daughter earns 1,000 U.S. dollars each year by performing Miao dances for visiting travelers.

    “We lived a very hard life in the past by doing farming,” said Xiong, “we never thought our distinctive meals and dances could help us get rich.”

    Nanhua, though picturesque, used to be a very poor village. Due to less cultivated land, the yearly average household income in the village stood at 120 U.S. dollars.

    Pan Renfeng, once a migrant worker and now village head, took the lead in promoting local unique food to visitors in 1997 and made profits soon after. Later, more villagers followed Pan’s example.

    “After nine years’ robust growth, rural tourism has made our village more beautiful and the villagers much richer,” said Pan…

    After initial explorations, Chinese local governments are trying a new method to help farmers shake off poverty–developing rural tourism.

    Large-scale rural tourism is not yet a mature practice in China, but experts are all optimistic about its prospects since many rural areas are rich in tourism resources, which are attracting more and more holiday makers from cities.

    Tourism is one of the engines of world development, said an official of the World Tourism Organization, which can help three fourth extremely poor population living in rural areas worldwide to better shake off poverty.

    The advantage of rural tourism lies in the fact that poor people can gain benefits from other’s business strategies and existing markets, the official said, and it can drive a large number of people out of poverty. So we should encourage tourism enterprises to employ poor people in large numbers and to provide job opportunities for them.

    Since the reform and opening up, a large batch of rural areas have become rich through developing local tourism, such as old revolutionary base Jinggangshan, Yan’an, Xibaipo, poverty-stricken mountain areas such as Zhangjiajie, Changbaishan and minority nationality regions as Xishuangbanna, Lijiang, Yanji and many places in northwest China.

    The root of poverty lies in low-level skills of people, experts hold, while rural tourism can not only help to better economic conditions of farmers, but create opportunities for them to raise cultural and sci-tech quality.

    Tourism is an effective “exploring way” of poverty alleviation, said an official from the National Tourism Administration. People who get rich through tourism have a lower rate of returning to poverty and they can be embarked on the road of wealth faster.

    Doctor Shi Peihua from the State Development and Planning Commission holds that the function of rural tourism is all-rounded which extends into various aspects of rural development. Development of rural tourism should be combined with the building of a well-off society in an all round way and the tackling of problems related to agriculture, rural areas and farmers.

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