Tourism Helps the Poor Out of Poverty

Zhang Tingzhen, a woman of Miao nationality in southwest China's Guizhou Province, has brought her family out of poverty by selling embroidery to tourists from both home and abroad.

She learnt how to embroider from her mother during her childhood and later became famous in her hometown for the novel design and exquisite workmanship of her embroidery.

"The embroidery was not for sale in the past. Girls either presented their creations to boy friends or decorated themselves, "she said.

"When my hometown became a tourist attraction in the early 1990s, I began to sell embroidery to tourists. Afterwards, I opened a private embroidery factory, which gained a net profit of more than 100,000 yuan last year. Some products were exported," she said.

Gao Shunli, an official with the National Tourism Administration, said the development of tourism has proven to be an effective way for helping people in underdeveloped western China relieve themselves of poverty.

Southwest China, which comprises Chongqing Municipality, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, has 34 parks which are world famous.

"Nevertheless, beautiful scenery and unique ethnic culture are coupled with underdevelopment and poverty," said Yang Shengming, director of the Guizhou Provincial Tourism Bureau.

Guizhou's Taijiang County, where Zhang Tingzhen lives, is home to the Miao nationality.

Since the county was designated as a tourist destination in the 1980s, local people have improved their living standards by opening restaurants, selling souvenirs and providing ferry and jampan services.

So far, almost one million people in Yunnan and Guizhou provinces have been lifted above the poverty line as a result of the development of tourism.

Northwest China's Gansu Province has opened a number of new tourist routes along the ancient Silk Road and Yellow River. The move has created opportunities for tens of thousands of farmers in the region to increase their income.

Xihaigu Prefecture, one of the poorest areas in China, has invested seven million yuan to build Liupanshan scenic zone over 110 square kilometers.

Tourism is a key part of China's strategy to develop its western regions and eliminate poverty.

Statistics show that western China attracts one third of the total visitors to China. Guizhou Province gained 4.83 billion yuan in tourist receipts last year, up 23 percent over the previous year. The tourist receipts of Yunnan exceeded 20 billion yuan in 1999.

An estimated four million people living under the poverty line in western China have benefited from the tourism industry, said Sun Gang, deputy director of the National Tourism Administration.

(People’ Daily 12/14/2000)