The Hukou Waterfall in Linfen, Shanxi province, attracts visitors on June 29, 2023. (Photo by Lyu Guiming/For chinadaily.com.cn)
Meri Snow Mountain promises to make rectification after complaints that people must pay for views of site
A renowned scenic area in Yunnan province on June 26 promised rectification after it sparked public annoyance by building walls along highways to block views of the site, which meant that the only way tourists could get a glimpse of the natural wonder was by buying a ticket.
The Meri Snow Mountain Scenic Area in Dechen county, Yunnan, said in a statement that it would make the Feilai Temple and the Great Jinsha River Winding scenic spots accessible to the public for free.
The statement said the highway section contains many sharp turns and steep slopes and advised tourists to drive carefully, adding that there are multiple angles and locations available around the Feilai Temple for them to enjoy the view. But it did not provide details on what would happen with the walls.
The promise of rectification was triggered by a travel blogger who recently posted a video complaining about 3-meter-high walls being erected on the side of the G214 national highway that passes by the Great Jinsha River Winding scenic spot.
The walls completely blocked views of the site from the highway, forcing tourists to pay to enter a panoramic platform set up by the scenic area if they wanted to witness the breathtaking beauty of a horseshoe-shaped bend of the river, which is the upper reach of the Yangtze River.
The entrance fee to see the winding spot is 60 yuan ($8.30). Tourists could also buy a joint ticket of 150 yuan that includes two more spots, including the Feilai Temple.
The post resonated with many tourists, who believe the scenic area was unreasonably profiting from the natural beauty. They also listed other scenic areas that conducted similar behavior.
For example, walls have also been set up on the roads leading to the Hukou Falls on both banks of the Yellow River, which is under the jurisdictions of Yichuan county, Shaanxi province, and Jixian county, Shanxi province, respectively.
According to a report by China Newsweek, officials in both counties claimed that the walls were meant to guarantee the safety of tourists rather than prevent them from getting "sneak peeks". But tourists complained that short, thick roadblocks would have been enough if safety was indeed the concern.
On Saturday, videos online have shown that the wall on the roads that lead to the Shaanxi side of the Hukou Falls have been torn down, according to a report by Xiaoxiang Morning News, which is based in Changsha, Hunan province. However, no explanations were given to the newspaper regarding the change.
The Meri Snow Mountain Scenic Area told Red Star News in Chengdu, Sichuan province, that the local government had entrusted a local tourism company to operate the sites, which signed contracts with local villages to return some of the profits to villages to boost the socioeconomic development of the region.
Some experts have called such behavior "shortsighted".
"Without tourists attracted by an area's good reputation, various services in the tourism sector, including those centered on dining, accommodation and shopping, would not be possible, let alone sustainable development," Yu Haibo, a professor in tourism at Nankai University, told China Newsweek, adding that 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 the Ocean Law Firm in Beijing, scenic areas that are built using public resources such as natural wonders should take into consideration public interest based on the Tourism Law, and should put social benefits ahead of profits.
In addition, regulations state that construction in scenic areas needs to be done according to the master plan of the area, and the composition of the plan requires the solicitation of public opinion, or public hearings if necessary, Li said, adding that it's not clear if plans to build the walls had included public feedback.
"It's the scenic beauty that 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 holiness in Tibetan Buddhism. Its main peak, Kawagebo, which has an altitude of 6,740 meters above sea level, has never been summited, and mountaineering activities have been banned to show respect for locals' beliefs.