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Mountain village blazes trail for rural tourism

(Xinhua)    09:28, October 27, 2020

TIANJIN, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- It has been more than half a month since the week-long National Day holiday ended, but Gao Cuilian's farmhouse hostel -- two blue-roofed European-style buildings -- is still packed with guests.

"Look how crowded our parking lot is. Over 100 people are staying here today," said Gao, 58, busy serving her guests millet steamed buns, stewed fish with steamed rolls, and other local dishes.

She is content with the bustle as her business can bring in some 40,000 yuan (about 5,984 U.S. dollars) a day on weekends, a feat she had never thought possible in her mid-30s.

Gao lives in Changzhou, a secluded village in the mountains of north China's Tianjin Municipality. The village used to lag far behind in economic development due to poor access to the outside world and lacking ways to make money.

But things began to change in the early 1990s when Wang Baoyi, newly elected Party chief of Changzhou, encouraged local farmers to develop rural tourism by making the most of the village's excellent environment and beautiful scenery.

Wang remembers that it was not an easy task to persuade farmers to make the huge shift from their traditional way of life -- making small profits from fruit-growing, picking mountain products and collecting herbs.

There was a lot of opposition at first, but after some early participants -- including the Gao family, who had confidence in Wang's idea -- began to earn good money by hosting holidaymakers from cities, more villagers followed suit.

The small village of Changzhou had around 90 households and made painstaking efforts to improve its infrastructure. Locals pooled funds to build a new road linking the village with the main highways in 1993, and a year later built Jiushanding, the highest scenic spot in Tianjin.

The sector flourished as more people joined in, and the village was home to 12 farmhouse hostels by 1997.

To avoid malicious competition, the village established a management center to standardize hostel operations from reception and the procurement of cooking materials to accommodation services and sanitation procedures.

Rural tourism has not only padded the wallets of Changzhou villagers, but has also created more than 1,500 jobs for people in surrounding villages and towns, Wang said, noting that Changzhou now receives some 450,000 visitors a year and brings in comprehensive tourism revenues of 120 million yuan.

Gao's hostel has more than 60 rooms, and she has been upgrading it over the years, setting up a recreational area with karaoke machines, pool tables and children's playground facilities.

"It was relaxing to stay here for a few days, hiking around, singing karaoke and just enjoying the fresh air," said Zhang Lianbao, a tourist from Tianjin staying at Gao's hostel.

Honored as a national model village for rural tourism in 2019, Changzhou, the once poor mountain village, is well on its way toward prosperity.

When asked about the secrets behind her business success, Gao points to the mountains behind. "They are an offering from nature."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Bianji)

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