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Tourism Helps More Rural People Get Rich

Xiong Shiying, in her early 40s, never dreamed that her remote village would become a hot tourist spot and her poor family could become rich.

Flourishing rural tourism in recent years has helped her family shake off poverty, along with 170 other households in Nanhua Village of Miao minority in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Her annual family income has soared from US$200 eight years ago to nearly US$4,000.

Xiong and her husband started to run a small restaurant in 1998, where they offered Miao-style wine and food, like sausages, bacon, and glutinous rice cake. Their elderly daughter earns US$ 1,000 each year by performing Miao dances for visiting travelers.

"We lived a very hard life in the past by doing farming," said Xiong, "we never thought our distinctive meals and dances could help us get rich."

Nanhua, though picturesque, used to be a very poor village. Due to less cultivated land, the yearly average household income in the village stood at US$120.

Pan Renfeng, once a migrant worker and now village head, took the lead in promoting local unique food to visitors in 1997 and made profits soon after. Later, more villagers followed Pan's example.

"After nine years' robust growth, rural tourism has made our village more beautiful and the villagers much richer," said Pan.

Guizhou is home to 17 ethnic groups whose population totals 14 million. Their customs and cultures are well preserved.

"Guizhou has no advantage in developing agriculture as its per capita share of farmland is much less than the national average," said Qian Jin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), "however, its diverse cultures have laid a good basis for developing tourism."

Yang Shengming, director of Guizhou Provincial Tourism Bureau, said the province still has 8 million people whose annual net income is less than US$100.

"Developing rural tourism is of great importance for poverty alleviation here," said Yang, adding, "Guizhou is cooperating with countries like New Zealand, Ireland and France, where rural tourism is thriving, in launching high-grade rural sightseeing programs."

According to the latest statistics from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, China still has 23.65 million people with a per capita annual income of less than 683 yuan (US$85.4). Most of them live in the remote, yet often picturesque mountainous regions.

To alleviate poverty by bringing more visitors to rural areas, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) set "rural tourism" as the theme of this year's national travel program.

According to the CNTA, more than 1.2 billion trips were made domestically in 2005. Flourishing rural tourism helps more rural people get rich.

(Xinhua News Agency April 6, 2006)

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