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New policies bring visitors into local villagers' lifestyle

By Ma Zhiping in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-23

Efforts to develop holistic tourism in the country are underway and visitors to Hainan Island early last year were beginning to see and feel the emerging changes.

"We are impressed by the improvements in local tourism infrastructure and the charming towns on the island which are becoming our new favorite weekend destinations," said Zhang Guilin, a bank worker who spent last weekend digging for sweet potatoes in Ruixi town, a tourist attraction less than 30 kilometers away from Haikou, capital of Hainan province.

"Digging for sweet potatoes is a brand new experience for all of us, and working with farmers in the field is such a joy, especially for our kids," said Zhang. "The sweet potatoes taste delicious, like chestnuts, and are sold hot. We are happy to get them in the fields and happy to see farmers earning more here."

During the New Year holidays this year, villages in Lingshui Li autonomous county in eastern Hainan received more than 41,000 tourists, with about 28,000 staying for one night, bringing local farmers an income of more than 26 million yuan ($3.77 million), according to the county tourism administration.2.jpg

Village tourism, especially among those with unique ethnic cultural traditions or in areas of natural beauty, is becoming a new growth point for rural economies as holistic tourism gains momentum in Hainan.

Those living near the sea live off the sea, the old saying goes. But things are changing in Tanmen town of Qionghai, where local people have made their living through fishing in the South China Sea for a millennium, said a township official.

"The town's leadership have decided to take full advantage of its fishing facilities and sea resources to develop tourism in a bid to better protect the sea while sustaining growth in income for local fishermen," said the official.

Their new ideas are already taking shape. Some of the wooden fishing boats are being turned into restaurants or tea houses where tourists can see fishermen catching or unloading their daily harvests while enjoying local food and drink. Tourist fishing boats will also be introduced to bring tourists to see fishing demonstrations or even out to sea to experience fishing for themselves, according to the official.

Similar creative efforts are being made all over the island to promote holistic tourism and bring about the "Hainan dream" of local residents and increasing tourists coming from home and abroad.

Hainan Island is China's only tropical province designated by the central government to become a holistic tourism demonstration province

The Boao Forum For Asia Annual Conference 2016 released a report on holistic tourism, called the Qionghai Consensus. It defines holistic tourism as a model that encourages people to consider the positive effects of tourism on the economy, society, culture and environmental development.

The model emphasizes the overall planning and strategic management of resources to promote industrial integration, so that tourists enjoy a better experience and local residents enjoy higher standards of living.

Last year, Hainan began to focus on building boutique tourist cities, provincial-level tourism industrial parks, specified zones for leisure and tourist attractions, as well as towns and villages and streets with historical and cultural value. Transportation and public service facilities have also been improved, according to the provincial tourism development commission.

Hainan Island, located at roughly the same latitude as Hawaii and encircled by 1,823 kilometers of charming coastline, is home to precious ecological resources, which were described by President Xi Jinping as invaluable assets that no one could buy or borrow.

The tropical island is considered to be one of the country's best places for both living and tourism, with a warm climate year-round, forests that cover more than 60 percent of its land area and a large number of aquatic farms that produce an impressive variety of sea products.


Yalongwan Tropical Forest Park in Sanya is a popular destination where visitors can venture for a look at an unfamiliar ecosystem.


A local family digs for sweet potatoes in Ruixi town on the weekend. The tourist attraction is less than 30 kilometers away from Haikou, capital of Hainan province.

(China Daily 03/23/2017 page12)