NANNING, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Tourists have been flocking to Bama, a remote and mountainous county famous for having the most centenarians in China.
More than 180,000 people visited the county during the National Day holiday period, to experience its local longevity culture. This is up 62 percent from the same period last year, said Huang Yanfei, director of the Bama County Tourism Bureau.
Bama is predominately inhabited by the ethnic Yao group in Hechi City of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Recognized by the International Natural Medicine Society as the "hometown of longevity" or a centenarian-clustered area, Bama now boasts 73 centenarians and 252 90-year-olds. The ratio of centenarians is 30.8 per 100,000, which exceeds the international standard of 25 per 100,000.
Board director Li Meixiao of the Guangxi Shouxiang (hometown of longevity) International Tourism Group attributed the county's growing popularity to tourists' changing tastes.
"A lot more Chinese people hope to use their holiday vacation to explore a healthy way of life. Most of them have come with a wish to see centenarians in person, taste what these centenarians have every day and breath in the fresh air we have," said Li.
Miao Zhi, a 65-year-old from the city of luoyang in central China's Henan, said her family did not want to go to a scenic spot during the National Day holiday. "We wanted to have a longevity tour instead to explore long-living secrets by talking to these centenarians and staying for a few days," said Miao.
Wang Jun, a 60-year-old from Tianjin, rented a house in Bama. "The germ-killing negative oxygen ions in the air here are much more than that in scenic spots where it is jam-packed with people. Staying here is much healthier," she said.
With the influx of tourists, rural home inns are providing a new source of income to the Bama people, who previously depended on farmland for food.
Huang Dashun, a local with the Pona Village who renovated his home into a family hotel, said that most of his guests were arriving by car. "I have been busy answering the phone as a lot more people have called to book a room," said Huang.
Official statistics showed that in 2011, the Pona Village alone received 273,000 tourists and took an aggregate tourism revenue of 64.3 million yuan. The village's per capita annual income has gone up from a few thousands of yuan in the 1990s to more than 15,000 yuan.
Li Li, deputy mayor of He Chi City, hopes to cash in on Bama's longevity to drive up the city's tourism and help reduce poverty in the area.
According to the city's blueprint, by 2015, rural tourism will create 200,000 jobs. More than 5 million tourists will visit annually. Enditem