Rural tourism helps relieve poverty in China's central, western regions
Hua Quan, a deputy of the 5th annual session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC). [Photo: China Plus/Sun Yang]
Poverty alleviation has been one of the hot topics at the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
In China, most of the rural poor are concentrated in the western and central regions inhabited by ethnic minorities.
But by developing tourism, local farmers in poverty-stricken areas have effectively improved their lives.
Wanggang Village in southwest China is a popular tourist destination in Guizhou Province. More than 70% of the residents are from the Bouyei ethnic group.
The villagers used to live on traditional agriculture by planting corn and rice on their barren fields, and most of the farming households lived below the poverty line.
Since 2007, the village has begun developing rural tourism focusing largely on culture. The landscapes, visual and performing arts and lifestyles of the Bouyei people attract thousands of tourists every year.
Deputy Hua Quan, secretary of the village branch of the Communist Party of China, said the village's per capita income in 2016 reached 12,000 yuan, or 1,730 U.S. dollars, about 6 times higher than 10 years ago.
Hua said tourism growth not only helps relieve poverty in the region, but also keeps Bouyei families united.
"Before 2007, half of the young people left the village to look for jobs in big cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai, leaving their children and parents at home. This has resulted in social contradictions. Following the development of rural tourism, young people returned to the village to run farms, businesses and breeding industry. The old problems were solved. It also tightened the bond of love between family members," said Hua.
By developing rural tourism, more money has flowed through these poverty-stricken regions in central and western China, increasing the number of jobs and bringing new ideas for development to those regions.
Statistics show that in 2015, more than 2.6 million people escaped poverty by developing tourism-related incomes. And the government is continuing its efforts to lift another 12 million people out of poverty by 2020 through developing rural tourism.
Li Jinzao, chief of the National Tourism Administration, told media during the NPC annual session that tourism will continue to be a pathway out of poverty for many.
"We are planning to lift 17% of the country's impoverished population out of poverty by developing tourism. The proportion is even higher in the regions with heavy tasks of poverty alleviation...We will step up efforts to reduce poverty through tourism. And to provinces that have been already lifted out of poverty, we will continue developing rural tourism to improve the quality of life for farmers," said Li.
The administration set its 13th Five-Year Plan to work with other agencies to provide support for 22,600 villages, including improving transportation, telecommunications, and sewage and garbage treatment facilities.
In addition, tourism experts will draft a workable design for developing rural tourism, as well as setting up monitoring centers to provide aid flexibly.
Yin Min, a professor of tourism management at Beijing International Studies University, said rural tourism has become a significant channel for reducing poverty.
He suggested that the villages dig deeply into the rich connotation of rural culture and integrate rural tourism with culture tourism to ensure sustainable development.
"Rural tourism should emphasize agricultural civilization and rural culture, highlighting the characteristics of folk culture. The form of tourism should enable interaction between the tourists and the locals. It is not only for sightseeing. There should be more opportunities for visitors to participate in farm activities for a more enriching tourism experience," said Yin.