Western China to Become World-Class Destination
[Xinhua is the official news agency of the PRC]
May 16 (Xinhuanet)
-- Scores of new tourist trails are expected to open up western China to a major influx of foreign visitors over the next ten to 15 years.
The new tourist routes are expected to be opened in the near future, under a national strategy for the development of western China's tourist resources unveiled in Guiyang, capital of southwest China's Guizhou Province, said Wei Xiao'an, an official with the National Tourism Administration.
One of the new routes of high interest will be the Cha Ma Gu Dao, a narrow and dangerous commercial route used decades ago to ship tea and sugar from Yunnan and Sichuan provinces to Tibet in exchange for horses and salt.
This route starts in Simao in Yunnan, runs through the tourist destinations such as the ancient city of Lijiang, a scenic town recently renamed as Shangri-La and the snow-capped Meili Mountain, and terminates at Ranwu Lake in Tibet.
Other highlights on the agenda include a journey along the ancient Silk Road, which starts from present-day Xi'an in Shaanxi Province and cuts westward through Dunhuang which is famous for its Mogao grottoes, the Yumen Pass, and enters Xinjiang; and cruise on the Lancang-Mekong watercourse which may take visitors to scenic spots in China's Yunnan Province and some southeastern Asian countries.
Western China consists of 12 provinces and autonomous regions. It has numerous world-famous scenic spots including the world's highest peak of Mount Qomolangma, Emperor Qin Shihuang' tomb which houses 8,000 life-size terra-cotta warriors and horses, the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon and the Potala Palace, the holy palace and gem of Tibetan culture.
The 6.6-million-square kilometer area is also home to many of China's ethnic minorities that have different lifestyles and cultural heritages.
Statistics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences show there are more than 6,000 places of natural beauty in western China. Over 100 scenic spots are well-known at home and abroad. Nine have been placed on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Last year, western China received more than 200 million visitors, with tourism income up to 100 billion yuan (12 billion U. S. dollars). Among them were five million foreign visitors who spent more than two billion U.S. dollars.
The picturesque villages inhabited by people of the Dong nationality in Guizhou Province received over 100,000 Chinese and foreign tourists last year. Anthony Charles Galsworthy, British ambassador to China, described the villages as a wonderful multi- ethnic land of song and dance.
"This is only one of the seven varieties of major tourist resources in western China the country has tapped so far," said Li Jijun, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Outlining the different characteristics in western China, Li said Qinghai and Tibet are endowed with places of natural beauty and sacred mountains, while Sichuan, Yunnan, Guangxi and Guizhou are dotted with villages with unique ethnic customs and culture. Those who wish to visit archaeological sites or the ruins of ancient tombs and cities should go to Shaanxi and Xinjiang in northwest China.
Transportation is the main problem restricting fast tourist development in western China. The central government plans to invest 700-800 billion yuan (84-96 billion U.S. dollars) to build air and highway networks with Lhasa, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Kunming, Xi' an and other key cities.
When direct air routes between western China and Europe open, visitors from central Asia, the Middle East and Europe will save a lot of money and time in their trips to Urumqi, Lhasa and other western cities.