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Anhui tourism conference kicks off in style

By William Wang (CRI Online)

08:04, November 14, 2012

Men race with giant wheels for the opening ceremony of the Huangshan International Tourism Festival on Sunday, November 11. 2012. (Photo: Wang)

China is brimming with jaw-dropping spots known and unknown to the masses, so naturally the highlights deserve some promotion. Anhui is host to some amazing tourist destinations which are the focus of the Anhui International Travel Agents Conference, now in its 16th year. The four-day conference attracts industry members from around the world.

The conference's opening ceremonies commenced on a sunny Sunday afternoon with an explosion of Anhui traditions and costumes. Rows of attendees lined up in Huangshan's city square when two lines of drummers began pounding drums that stood taller than they did. The show had begun.

A small army of red-clad women marched with their own variety of percussion tools. Young men danced around a banner hanging from a pole while pounding out their own rhythms. Traditional red and yellow costumes were paraded about. The highlight was when pairs of men rolled out 7-foot high wooden wheels and raced them through a choreographed show. Unsurprisingly, the men were all panting heavily by the end.

Afterwards, keynote speeches were given by municipal leaders, including Huangshan Municipal Government Mayor Song Guoquan. The visiting French Director of Service Christine Garnier also took the podium to discuss how Huangshan will continue developing and doing so responsibly.

An explosion of colored smoke signaled that the speeches were over and then the focus turned to the tents set up near the stage, where CRI caught up with Garnier. She spoke with a quintessential French accent, evident even in her Mandarin. "We've been working with Huangshan Municipality for six years," said Garnier, describing her work in China, "and it's a really great partnership because it's preserving the environment in the village. [The local government] wants to improve the water system and all the tourist development in all the villages to help the local population." Garnier noted how water pollution is often an unfortunate side effect of development, implying that developers in Huangshan would be better stewards of the area.

"We're trying to develop tourist guest houses first," she continued. "The second important thing is the water system. You can't welcome lots of tourists if you don't have a water system. Tourism in China develops very, very quickly, but you have to take some time to do things right." She smiled before disappearing into a crowded tent with her crew.

Everything from dried meats to calligraphy paintings were being sold in 133 booths inside the tents. Local resident Wang Wenjun was enjoying browsing the booths. "I've been here many times," she admitted with a nod. "A lot of people from a lot of different countries come, and there are a lot of events. It's a bustling atmosphere, so locals like to join in." She also commented on how the annual conference has changed the face of Huangzhou over the years. "Because it's developed so fast, the area's had a big improvement. The roads are good and the landscaping is really nice."

And of course she was acquainted with how it's impacted the economy, noting increased restaurant prices for everybody, but still remaining positive overall. "Locals find lots of opportunities with tourists, ways to make a living like opening a restaurant or a small guest house. Tourists are more and more as time goes. We locals are late bloomers. Now we can all speak a bit of foreign languages: English, Korean, Japanese…"

Luo You was busily promoting his traditional local sweets. "Today we're introducing people to Hefei's special products. It's our first time taking part in this event. There are a lot of people here checking things out, so we're really satisfied."

Industry members from across China, North America and Europe enjoyed a busy schedule of networking and sightseeing, taking in Huizhou Opera, visiting historic villages, and eating local specialty foods. The World Traveling Salesman Conference, an Anhui College Student Film Exhibition and more are included in this conference.

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