Village looks to the sky to lure tourists

11:02, May 06, 2011      

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One of the two helicopters purchased by Huaxi village - dubbed the richest village in China. Huaxi aims to set up an aviation company to explore the air tourism market. Provided to China Daily

The richest village in China is looking to soar to new heights with an ambitious air tourism project.

Huaxi, a village in Jiangyin, East China's Jiangsu province, has spent 90 million yuan ($13.9 million) on two helicopters, and will add three more, as well as a commercial jet, during the next five years, said Li Qing, deputy Party chief of the village.

"The village wants to attract more tourists by offering a sightseeing experience from the sky," Li told China Daily on Thursday.

He added that the village welcomed 2.2 million visitors last year.

According to Li, the village will set up its own airline company within one year if the Civil Aviation Administration of China approves its application and it plans to train 100 pilots. Once the airline company is established the tourism flights will be available to the public.

The flight prices have yet to be decided, though it will be "expensive", according to Li.

It will probably cost around 30,000 yuan an hour for a flight containing two to four passengers, according to a report by Yangtze Evening News.

However, about 1,400 villagers have already seen their hometown from the air for free in a trial run.

Each helicopter flight, at a height no higher than 300 meters, centered on the village and lasted about 15 minutes. The helicopter crew currently consists of 10 members, including pilots, air hosts and safety inspectors.

"We see a great potential in the air tourism market in the Yangtze River Delta, as no such service has been provided there yet," said Li.

If the flights prove popular, the new company might expand its business to nearby cities, such as Wuxi, where it would offer flights over Taihu Lake, the country's second biggest freshwater lake.

"We are optimistic about the development of China's general aviation industry because the regulations are becoming more flexible," Li said.

Huaxi was a sleepy village in 1957, with just 576 residents and assets of about 1,800 yuan. But it has amassed revenues of 229.6 billion yuan in the past five years.

The village, which covers a radius of 4 kilometers and has a population of 36,000, is hailed as one of China's greatest successes with all residents living in plush villas and enjoying free healthcare and education. Besides, each family in the village has two cars and at least $250,000 in the bank.

Sun Haiyan, another deputy Party chief of the village, told China Daily the village's revenue was 51.2 billion yuan last year, and every year up to 3.5 billion yuan can be used for the development of the village.

In 2008, Huaxi spent 2.5 billion yuan to build a 74-story skyscraper, and it recently announced a plan to establish a 118-story skyscraper with a height of 538 meters.

Source:China Daily
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