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When Poverty Meets Tourism by Liu Hui, April 1, 2016 Adjust font size:

Picture of agritainment center in verdant Tonglu County in east China's Zhejiang Province [People's Daily Online] 

Poverty reduction and alleviation is always described as one of the greatest global challenges, while tourism is often regarded as one of the strongest driving forces of international trade and prosperity. Is there any linkage between poverty alleviation and tourism development? Poverty-stricken villagers living in verdant Tonglu County in east China's Zhejiang Province give their answers as pro-poor tourism has acted as an engine of local economic growth and job creation in recent years, the People's Daily Online reported.

According to those villagers in poverty, they would earn less than 5,000 yuan (U.S. $772) per year before the introduction of pro-poor tourism. With the help of the local government, they have adopted the tourism-based approach to poverty that has definitely changed their out-of-date lifestyle.

Villager Ma Genying indicated that her annual income was raised tenfold during those years as her hometown has been chosen as a site to promote pro-poor tourism. Accordingly, Ma converted her farmhouse into an "agritainment" (a portmanteau between "agriculture" and "entertainment") center, which has attracted thousands of visitors per day during its peak period.

A Long but Fruitful Journey

Nowadays, more and more counties in China have followed the example of Tonglu to outline the wide range of the pro-poor tourism strategy.

Statistics compiled by provincial tourism administrations in China show that almost half of 128,000 impoverished villages nationwide are qualified to promote rural tourism. Once they have embarked on a transition towards tourism, it could lead up to 70 percent of all local villagers to shake off poverty.

More than 10 million villagers in poverty had benefited from pro-poor tourism since China launched its 12th Five Year Plan (2011-2015) that focused on inbound tourism growth. Earlier last year, a new strategy developed by the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) also called for ramping up the support of pro-poor tourism, which has emerged as a prospective new driver in China's rural economy.

Taking China's southern resort island of Hainan as an example, the number of the poor and needy there could reach as high as 753,000 in 2011. But last year, it had been reduced to 546,000 partly due to the launch of pro-poor tourism. Over 30,000 people had shaken off poverty directly and more than 40,000 ones had ended rural poverty indirectly.

Essentially, the adoption of pro-poor tourism is immensely beneficial for its local government revenue, among which rural tourism incomes reached up to 1,727 million yuan (U.S. $267million) with an annual increase of 15 percent. 50,000 people there have served the newly sprung pro-poor tourism industry, helping to relieve the severe employment situation. It is also estimated that almost 100,000 local people, correspondingly, would have overcome poverty by 2020.

Obviously, the mere act of travelling really makes a big difference around China. Almost 10 million rural people in the far southern reaches of China's Guangxi Province have benefited from its local tourism with their average income rising 567 yuan (U.S. $87) per year. Since 2011, 457,000 local people have realized their dream of a place free from poverty. As for north China's Shanxi Province, a series of tourism products and ad spaces featuring rural culture will be created within the next three years as the government has planned to lift 300 poor villages out of poverty by 2030.

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