Villagers share courtyards to boost rural tourism in China's Ningxia

(Xinhua) 09:35, October 21, 2021

Aerial photo taken on Oct. 15, 2021 shows the autumn scenery at Haba Lake nature reserve of Yanchi County, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Wang Peng)

YINCHUAN, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Residents of Yongxin Village, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, are no strangers to the sharing economy.

During the recent National Day holiday, city dweller Ma Xuecheng and his family had a unique experience in Yongxin Village, which is under the jurisdiction of the city of Wuzhong.

After checking in to a farmhouse-turned-hostel, Ma took a walk around the courtyard, surprised to find that the courtyards of different households were joined together -- one featuring rocks of grotesque shapes, another boasting ponds and a pavilion, one offering a karaoke service, and another attracting tourists with a barbecue buffet.

"It feels like we are in a well-equipped scenic area rather than a village," Ma said.

Since 2017, villagers have been transforming their courtyards, turning their village into a tourist destination. Shared courtyards are a local innovation and receive financial support from the local government.

While the farmhouses themselves have private spaces, visitors can wander freely through the courtyards of each house and experience a variety of things, including barbecues and fruit picking.

"It can avoid homogeneous competition, enrich tourists' experiences, and bring in more income," said Li Wenbin, Party secretary of the village.

Thanks to a flood of tourists hoping to take a look at the shared courtyards, Yongxin earned nearly 700,000 yuan (about 108,780 U.S. dollars) from tourism last year. The combined turnover of hostels in the village increased nearly five times during this year's National Day holiday compared to the year before.

"It was unimaginable 20 years ago," said villager Luo Jinhu.

At that time, Yongxin villagers had just been relocated from the mountainous Xihaigu, an area of Ningxia that used to be one of China's most impoverished places due to drought and a fragile ecology.

When they first arrived at their new home, the place was very desolate. The only good thing was that they were not far from the Yellow River and could use it as their water source. Starting from scratch, they turned the wild land into farms for goji berry and vegetable growing and livestock raising.

To develop rural tourism, the village has organized cooking and hospitality training sessions for farmers.

"Their service is even better than many star-rated hotels," Ma said.

Luo Jinhu's household used to be registered as impoverished and could barely make ends meet. Thanks to shared courtyards, Luo has begun running a restaurant featuring unique Chinese cuisines. The family's yearly income has surpassed 100,000 yuan since 2018.

The development of tourism has also enhanced the village's environment. Broad roads lined with trees, flowers and street lamps remind people of city parks, and delicately designed houses delight tourists.

"We plan to support more villagers to join the development of shared courtyards," Li said. "We'll keep improving services and ensure tourists enjoy the idyllic life here." 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Liang Jun)


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