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Tourism reshapes lives of villagers

By Wen Xinzheng in Zhangjiajie, Hunan, and Zhao Xinying in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-13 08:21

Tourism development in some poverty-stricken villages in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, has helped lift people out of a difficult financial situation, according to villagers.

Quan Xiping, a resident of Shiyanping village, in Yongding district of Zhangjiajie, said the revenue from running a hotel transformed from his own house was more than 300,000 yuan ($45,370) last year. "It is expected to reach 400,000 yuan in 2017," he said.

Quan was born and raised in the village, which is predominantly of the Tujia ethnic group and located in an isolated and mountainous area of southeast Zhangjiajie. He and other villagers have long struggled with poverty, trying to make a living through trading in lumber and animal feed.

In 2014, inspired by news about more rural people prospering by providing services to tourists, Quan made his house into a hotel.

"There were few customers in the beginning, as the area's remoteness and the absence of traffic weren't favorable for attracting tourists," he recalled. But things soon improved as the Yongding government helped by offering preferential policies.

Apart from adding the village to a list of "must go" destinations for rural tourism, the local government also got support from Hunan TV and livestreamed a program on the folk customs of the Tujia.

"The move made the village known to more people, and we have gotten more tourists and more businesses ever since," Quan said.

Quan Zizhuo, village leader in Shiyanping, said the popularity of road trips and the development of local infrastructure have also contributed to increasing tourism.

"With the boom in tourism, nine families in the village were lifted out of poverty last year. Another 23 families are expected to get out of poverty this year."

At Matouxi, a village that is a 30-minute drive from Shiyanping, more than 10 village homes converted into hotels have thrived since 2014.

Zheng Minghua, Party chief of Matouxi, said things would get better with construction starting soon on a new highway near the village.

"It will take only 50 minutes to drive from downtown Zhangjiajie to our village," he said.

Lyu Fanggui, deputy director of the poverty alleviation office of Yongding, said 489 homes in the district have been transformed into hotels and are being run by villagers, and more than 23,000 people who used to live in poverty are better off thanks to development of the local tourism industry.

Contact the writers at zhaoxinying@chinadaily.com.cn

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