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Boao's success spurs high-quality development of rural tourism

Xinhua, March 27, 2023
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This aerial photo taken on March 25, 2023 shows a view of Shamei Village in Boao, south China's Hainan Province. (Xinhua/Guo Cheng)

BOAO, Hainan, March 26 (Xinhua) -- In the village of Paigang, everything bears testimony to the ancient fishery culture -- old brick houses, historic ferry sites and shabby fishing boats.

Located in the township of Tanmen, south China's Hainan Province, the obscure village of Paigang boasts up to 1,000 years of history.

About 10 km away, in the town of Boao, palm fronds flutter against the backdrop of the blue ocean, luxury hotels dot the skyline and cars shuttle down tree-lined boulevards. It is in this pleasant setting that the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) will hold its annual conference from March 28 to 31.

In recent years, thanks to the BFA, many villages in and near Boao have started to develop rural tourism, with homestays, bars and coffeehouses springing up to meet the growing demand. The village of Paigang is among those that have benefited from this boom.

"My homestay is running at full capacity these days," said homestay owner Wu Shuxian. "Actually, our business has been quite good since the Spring Festival holiday."

Business is "explosive" around the time of the BFA annual conference, Wu added.

"We not only offer accommodation, but also local food," he said. "My dad helps cook, and he is an amazing chef. He can cook both spicy and non-spicy food."

In 2017, local authorities in the city of Qionghai, which oversees Boao and Paigang, began helping to develop rural tourism in the village based on its fishing culture and history, combining activities such as fishing, food tasting and village tours for visitors.

Ancient historical elements, such as the brick houses, an age-old well and a variety of artifacts, are well preserved, intertwining with modern elements such as a coffeehouse and a karaoke bar.

The flourishing tourism trade has attracted many potential business people.

Xue Cuiyuan, from Beijing, has rented a house in Paigang, and he and a business partner are preparing to establish a research studio focusing on aromatic plants.

"Here it is close to the sea, the port and Boao, and it has a profound fishing culture and history," Xue said. "I think it's perfect."

Liu Li, 25, from east China's Jiangxi Province, is running a homestay in Paigang.

"The BFA has held its conferences near here for many years," she said. "The infrastructure is great, and I see huge potential."

A similar situation can be found in the village of Liuke, under the jurisdiction of the Mocun village committee in Boao.

Liuke's history goes way back. In the old days, when locals needed to travel beyond their villages or outside the province, they had to transfer here. Gradually, the village became a stopover for tourists, hence its name "Liuke."

In recent years, in answer to the country's rural revitalization drive, authorities have made efforts to attract tourists to the village with sightseeing and entertainment programs.

For instance, villagers and tourists can admire the beauty of the Wanquan River along a 1.2-km-long "landscape belt." To attract young people, village authorities have developed programs such as riverside camping and kayaking.

Entrepreneur Quan Kebin has invested in the local tourism sector.

"We have a rich culture here, which is definitely attractive to visitors," Quan said. "The tourism development here can generate job vacancies for locals, especially for young people, who traditionally go to big cities looking for jobs."

Wu Shuxian, the homestay owner, is confident about the future of rural tourism near Boao.

"I hope that more people will come to appreciate the culture and the scenery of our village," Wu said.  ■