A renowned scenic area in Yunnan province promised to rectify its behavior on Monday after sparking public annoyance by building walls along highways to block public viewing.
The Meri Snow Mountain Scenic Area in Dechen county, Yunnan, said in a statement it would make the Feilai Temple and the Great Jinsha River Winding scenic spots accessible to the public for free.
The scenic area said the highway contains many sharp turns and steep slopes and advised tourists to drive carefully, adding there are multiple angles and locations around Feilai Temple for them to enjoy the view. But the statement did not provide details on what it would do with the walls.
The incident was triggered by a video from a travel blogger complaining about the 3-meter walls being erected on the side of the G214 national highway passing the scenic spot.
The walls completely blocked the view from the highway, forcing tourists to pay to enter a panoramic platform set up by the scenic area if they want to see an omega-shaped turn in the Jinsha River, the upper reach of the Yangtze River.
The post received positive feedback from many tourists, who said management was unreasonably profiting from the area's natural beauty. They also listed other scenic areas that engaged in similar behavior.
The scenic area told Chengdu-based Red Star News the local government had entrusted a local tourism company to operate the scenic spots, who signed contracts with local villages to return some of the profits back to villages to boost socioeconomic development of the region.
Some experts have called such behavior "shortsighted". "Without tourists brought by good reputation, various forms of consumption in the tourism sector won't be available, let alone sustainable development," Yu Haibo, a professor in tourism at Nankai University, told China Newsweek, adding the negative reputation of one scenic area will potentially impede the growth of tourism in the entire region.
According to Li Lei, a lawyer at Beijing-based Ocean Law Firm, scenic areas built upon on public resources such as natural wonders should follow principles of public interest based on the Tourism Law and put social benefits ahead of profits.
In addition, regulations state construction within scenic areas needs to be done according to the master plan of the area, and solicitation of public opinion or hearings are necessary, Li said, adding it's not clear if the construction followed public feedback.
"It's the scenic beauty the walls blocked, but it's the tourists' hearts that were lost," Yu said.
Meri Snow Mountain has long been a renowned scenic area due to its natural grandeur as well as its exalted status in Tibetan Buddhism. Its main peak, Kawagebo, has an altitude of 6,740 meters above sea level and has never been summited, and mountaineering there has been banned to show respect to local beliefs.