By Morag Hobbs (People’s Daily Online)
If you build it, they will come. The phrase could not be more apt than for the city of Liupanshui in Guizhou province, which through building a mammoth, interconnected tourism industry is lifting itself out of position as the poorest province in China.
After a week in Liupanshui city, it’s clear to see the vast improvements that are being made to entice people in and the vast mountain regions that mean visitors are sure to come flooding back. The people you meet here seem happy, and are proud to let you in on their unique culture and beautiful surroundings with broad smiles.
As you drive through the province there is construction everywhere, and not just for the benefit of visitors. Locals are building extra floors on their farmhouses, or extra homes next door. You get a sense that although people are already moving out of poverty, the people of Guizhou have something much bigger planned.
“Tourism + poverty alleviation + three strategies”
While many poorer areas in China have previously focused on agriculture and industry, Guizhou is using methods to combine already present industries with tourism, hoping to make the city of Liupanshui as famous a destination as Guilin in neighboring Guangxi province.
Using the “three strategies” reform of comprehensively eliminating poverty, building a moderately prosperous society and promoting basic modernization, the region is using a system where industries work with and rely on each other, creating a circle of support, opportunity and ultimately wealth. Starting by using tourism as a method of poverty alleviation in line with the government’s reform is a bold move as Guizhou, until recently, remained fairly unheard of to those outside of China.
However, the province is opening up to tourism at the perfect time. Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative and strengthening ties with ASEAN countries, China is becoming a more popular holiday destination with associated countries. As Vithit Powattanasuk, Director of Information and Public Relations, ASEAN-China Centre, explained in his opening speech at the 2018 Belt and Road and ASEAN media tour to Liupanshui, “There were nearly 50 million mutual visits between both sides [ASEAN countries and China] last year. The number of exchange students exceeded 200,000.”
Seeing the opportunity for growth, Liupanshui municipal governments and Guizhou provincial government have invested in all areas across culture, scenic spots and agriculture to make every corner of the province richer.
The wild jade sea scenic spot and Yi village is the perfect example of how cultural tourism will work in tandem with poverty alleviation in one of the 100 tourist scenic spots that Guizhou is currently planning or building. The government will help 169 groups amounting to 4,213 people who were previously sporadically placed or in small, poverty stricken villages, resettling poor households in nearby tourism service areas.
Therefore, villagers who previously had no income will be able to not only live in a new, purposefully made village but also gain employment in a new tourism hub. Tourism will not only include visiting the villages and scenic spots, but taking part in cultural activities such as welcome dances, bonfire parties and wine tasting. This model not only effectively solves the problem of people living in poverty, but also inherits and develops the national culture.
A finished version of a cultural heritage village is Langdai ancient town. The streets are crowded and children wearing cutesy t-shirts and eating snacks peer out of their doors curiously. This town is lived in, but it’s also a tourist destination. The merging of ancient culture and modern society is evident with a trip down Food Street, as you watch villagers make traditional rice cakes next to a child playing a game on their parent’s phone. Again, this town lives from an influx of tourists from Huangguoshu scenic spots and the Zangke River, which the government has purposefully regenerated to bring in more visitors.