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Wuyuan benefits from booming tourism
By Xinhua in Nanchang ( China Daily )
Ten years ago, Qiu Wuquan could barely feed his family by working as a tea and rice farmer in his hometown of Wuyuan, a place known today as "the most beautiful countryside" in China.
Last year, the 54-year-old man's rural inn brought him a net profit of 200,000 yuan ($31,700), or 29 times the average per capita net income in the county in Jiangxi province.
The shift began in 2001 when Qiu decided to borrow money to build the village's first rural inn, offering food and lodging to travelers coming to the fields in springtime to see the blossoming rape flowers.
About 10 years ago, local authorities began suggesting that farmers plant large areas of rape flowers for sightseeing, rather than for harvesting the plants for rapeseed oil, and the county had more than 6,800 hectares of delicately planted flowers by 2011.
Although it is a relatively new scenic site, Wuyuan is now among the top 10 travel destinations for Chinese people.
Statistics from local tourism authorities showed that 6.19 million travelers toured the county in 2011, and a preliminary forecast suggests that up to 2 million tourists will visit the county this spring as the blossoming period will last until mid-May.
Farmers like Qiu had long sensed that tourism would bloom and shifted from farming to running the rural inns that bring them concrete, measurable benefits.
Qiu successfully repaid his start-up loan of 3 million yuan in the first three years and has since put more money into expanding the inn.
Qiu's inn, the biggest in the village of Likeng, currently has more than 60 guest rooms and 80 dining tables.
His success inspired many other neighboring families to start their own home-style inns, now a dominant industry in the village, with more than half of its residents operating or working in inns.
Moreover, some villagers make and sell local specialties and handicrafts, while others serve as tour guides in their spare time - all endeavors that bring more money into the village.
In Wuyuan, a county once dedicated to traditional agriculture, more than 70,000 farmers, or 21 percent of the population, hold jobs related to tourism. The annual per capita income for rural residents in the county increased from 3,661 yuan in 2006 to 6,890 yuan in 2011.
Inns have become a major engine for rural income growth and could enhance employment, said Pan Dongjun, mayor of Shangrao, the city administering Wuyuan.
The city government has promised to help set up 5,000 more rural inns in 2012, which will bring the total to 32,000, Pan said at the local legislative session in February.
"The ultimate beneficiary of the government's investment in tourism would be local farmers," said Qiu.
He plans to erect a new building for his inn and expand the operation to create jobs for farmers from other villages.