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Charming city sees boost in tourism

2014-03-31 13:30 China Daily Web Editor: qindexing

Although inbound tourism numbers fell in China last year, Tongren, a city in Guizhou province that is usually far off the tourist trail, has come up with a winning formula, a local official said.

In 2013, the city welcomed 60,508 foreign visitors, up 21 percent year-on-year, and that number is expected to hit 100,000 before 2015, the Tongren tourism bureau said.

"We are focusing on developing markets in Japan and South Korea this year to further boost tourism," Xia Qingfeng, the mayor of Tongren, who is also a deputy to the National People's Congress, said during the recent NPC session.

Tongren is not the only Chinese city gaining global attention.

The country has 45 scenic spots listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the second-highest in the world, but less-known areas are also coming into play.

Zhang Lingyun, deputy dean of the Tourism Institute of Beijing Union University, said less-developed areas in western China have a growing appeal.

Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces have witnessed a steady increase in inbound tourism in recent years, he said.

Ironically, as economic development surges in Beijing and Shanghai, their appeal may wane for tourists who want to see something exceptional or off the beaten track, he said.

"You don't spend a lot of money and travel for hours to see something similar to your own neighborhood," he said.

Charming city sees boost in tourism

In addition, urban problems such as traffic congestion and smog have made some cities less attractive.

"When a city is over-industrialized and gradually losing its character, it's losing its value and attractions, too," Zhang said.

Tongren is a wonderland with untouched charm, Xia said, and the local authorities are keen to promote it.

In order to boost Tongren as a tourism destination, Xia said the city will apply for UNESCO World Natural Heritage recognition for Fanjing Mountain this year.

The mountain, which reaches a peak of 2,572 meters, is one of the country's sacred Buddhist mountains and home to the rare snub-nosed monkey.

In the past year, more than 10,000 domestic and foreign photographers have been invited to Tongren to record its charm, according to the local tourism bureau.

Women wearing traditional Miao ethnic group clothing, pagoda-like towers and village elders smoking pipes came into focus.

Last year, the city's tourism revenue reached $12.9 million, a year-on-year increase of 18 percent, and it is expected to hit $18.5 million in 2015.

In 2013, the city lifted 97,000 people out of poverty through its booming tourist industry, according to the city government.

About 130,000 villagers and farmers are engaged in rural tourism.

Xia said by 2015, tourism output is expected to hit 28 billion yuan, with visitor numbers expected to hit 30 million.

"About 400,000 people living in poverty will benefit from tourism," Xia said.

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