By Wang Ke, Chang Qin, People’s Daily
China has made great efforts to promote poverty alleviation through culture and tourism since 2012, giving the cultural and tourism industry a huge role in benefiting and enriching people.
During the past five years, the country invested a total of more than 6.36 billion yuan ($980 million) of tourism development fund, and dispatched over 132,000 personnel from cultural industries to former revolutionary base areas, ethnic minorities areas, border areas and impoverished areas, turning cultural and natural resources into wealth and creating jobs for impoverished residents. It has greatly promoted the economic and social development of impoverished regions.
Simola is a village inhabited by Va people surrounded by green mountains and clear creeks in southwest China’s Yunnan Province. In recent years, the village has developed into a key tourism village on national level, receiving 210,000 visits in 2020.
Li Shunfa, a villager who was once trapped in poverty, has embraced a well-off life thanks to local tourism development. According to the man, he can sell more than 300 rice cakes per day.
Bashan Grand Canyon, lying on the northwest of Xuanhan County, Dazhou, southwest China’s Sichuan Province, has paved a new path for local residents to get rid of poverty through cultural tourism. It has lifted 102 villages and 91,000 residents out of poverty, and increased income for 25 townships and 500,000 residents in Sichuan’s adjacent province Shaanxi and municipality Chongqing.
Many impoverished regions in China boast rich ecological resources. The development of rural tourism is turning green mountains and lucid water into invaluable assets. As China gradually improves its system of tourism-driven poverty alleviation, it has constantly expanded the ways to eradicate poverty. Farmlands and scenic spots have been well integrated across China, and production, ecology and daily life are also closely connected, which has effectively turned resources into assets, capital into equities, and villagers into shareholders. More and more residents are beginning enjoying the dividends of tourism development after shaking off poverty.
According to an official with China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the ministry and other relevant departments will invest 6.5 billion yuan to support 656 tourism infrastructure projects in “three regions” (Tibet, the four prefectures of Hotan, Aksu, Kashgar, and Kizilsu in southern Xinjiang, and the ethnic Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, and Qinghai) and “three prefectures” (Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, and Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu).
Besides, the ministry will also facilitate the issuance of loans worth 70 billion yuan to continue improving rural environment and advance rural tourism in impoverished regions, the official said.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism also attaches high importance on talent cultivation, helping people increase confidence in their own ability to lift themselves out of poverty and see that they can access the education they need.
The ministry implemented a talent support plan in former revolutionary base areas, ethnic minorities areas, border areas and impoverished areas, introduced professionals to these areas based on their actual demands, and implemented a program to nurture rural cultural and tourism entrepreneurial leaders. It offered over 700 training sessions in impoverished regions, which significantly stimulated the endogenous power for development of these regions.
In remote villages of Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, central China’s Hunan Province, traditional ethnic crafts are revitalized. Thanks to the efforts made by local government, the inheritors of intangible cultural heritage items, including bamboo weaving and brocading, joined training courses held by Jiangnan University and other institutions of higher education. Luo Weiying, after learning from two training sessions, established a cooperative that employs 132 residents of her village, creating an annual income of 580,000 yuan.
The value and connotation of cultural tourism is also further explored by relevant departments and enterprises to extend the value chain for poverty alleviation industries.
“Many craftsmen in remote rural areas have unique expertise, but lack access to the market, so we must help them cooperate with more parties,” said Xia Hua, chairman of board of garment producer Eve Group. The group has launched standardized training programs in impoverished villages in Yunnan Province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Guizhou Province and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, making traditional handiworks more artistic, trendy and international. It has helped over 13,000 local residents increase income.