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Tourism wakes up 'sleeping treasures' of impoverished villages

Xinhua,May 11, 2020 Adjust font size:

Quan Qinghai, 48, used to hate the stumbling rocks that hindered the way from his remote village in northwest China's Gansu Province to the outside world.

Now with all the villagers relocated to town, the once-annoying rocks are now regarded as treasures -- important building materials to build a tourist resort at the former site of Quan's hometown.

At an altitude of some 2,000 meters, Shanbei Village is located in Tanchang County in the city of Longnan, one of the least developed areas in Gansu.

Villagers like Quan used to toil in the barren fields to grow corn and other traditional crops, bringing home a meager yield.

Mainly funded by the local government, Quan and over 1,000 fellow villagers moved into new apartments in 2017, a campaign to relocate poor residents to more habitable areas.

As China has targeted to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020, impoverished areas have made use of their primitive landscapes to develop rural tourism.

In addition to traditional industries such as raising chickens and growing fruit, villagers welcomed a tourism company from southwest China's Chongqing, which had an eye for their abandoned land.

"Remote as it is, the area is covered with rich vegetation and endowed with a pleasant climate and beautiful scenery," said Qiu Benliang, the company executive, adding that tourists can not only enjoy the natural surroundings but also feel a strong sense of nostalgia attached to old buildings.

With the assistance of the government, the company started to build a resort including a homestay hotel in Shanbei and nearby villages in 2018. Former villagers were hired as construction workers, cleaners and waiters.

Quan is responsible for paving roads, growing trees and other odd jobs, earning 120 yuan (17 U.S. dollars) per day.

"The rocks we disliked are now treasures as we use them to decorate the hotel, which is a symbol of our once rocky village," he said.

After two years of construction, a deluxe hotel decorated with quaint wooden beams, earthen walls, garden-like atriums and leisure facilities such as outdoor swimming pools and tea houses, opened to the public during this year's Labor Day holiday, attracting many tourists.

"Tourism makes the rural areas more beautiful," said Yang Mingxue, a villager.

The company also offered free accommodation to medics of Gansu who were sent to Hubei, the province hardest hit by the novel coronavirus in central China, to help treat COVID-19 patients.

According to the company, the resort is expected to receive 800,000 visitors every year, creating about 300 jobs for locals.

"I am pleased that residents no longer have to travel far to cities to make money," Qiu said, adding that the company will further improve local infrastructures.

Official data showed that rural areas in Longnan received more than 10 million tourists, reaping revenue of over 2.88 billion yuan last year.

Wang Fuquan, a Party official of Tanchang County, said tourism development was turning long-ignored local natural resources into a cash cow.

"Rural tourism is waking up the sleeping treasures, contributing to the poverty alleviation," said Wang.

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