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Hunan aims to be top ten tourism center
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Picturesque Hunan: aiming to be a top ten national and international tourism destination. 

The overall income from tourism in Hunan province is projected to exceed 100 billion yuan ($14.6 billion) this year. In 2014, it is expected to grow still further, doubling to 200 billion yuan and accounting for 14 percent of the province's GDP, according to a high-ranking official in the provincial tourism industry.

Yang Guangrong, chief of the provincial tourism administration, said: "We are sparing no efforts to establish Hunan as one of the top 10 tourism provinces in China over the next five years."

In the first half of this year, the province welcomed nearly 670,000 foreign tourists and 70 million domestic travelers, earning $235 million and 44 billion yuan respectively. The number of overall tourists increased by 38.19 percent over the same period last year, with income rising by 34.92 percent year-on-year.

The provincial government has designated 2009 as "tourism projects construction year" and is developing 251 tourism initiatives, including 20 provincial-level projects, 50 city-level, and 100 county-level tourism projects, with an overall investment of 138 billion yuan.

"These projects aim to significantly improve local tourism infrastructure, scenic site and other tourism-related industries, and thus make Hunan an even more popular tourist destination," said Yang.

According to Yang, in the first half of this year, 323 projects worth more than five million yuan each in terms of investment, were commissioned.

To date, over 90 percent of its 251 projects are under construction. Among them, the Juxizhou scenic area, representing 1.4 billion yuan in investment, is now open to tourists for free. Additionally, the construction of the No1 project in Shaoshan, worth more than one billion yuan, has been completed. The famous Zhangjiajie area has also benefited from considerable renovation and improvements and is now set to become a first-class tourist destination, both in China and around the world.

Vice-governor of Hunan Gan Lin (front, left) promoting the province's tourism resources during her tour of Hong Kong. 

Apart from improving the large-scale class-one scenic sites, the provincial authorities have also upgraded other, less well-known, tourism sites, including the hotspring town in Ning county, the ancient town of Jinggang and the bar street of Changsha.

Yang said his team is also planning to establish a provincial tourism service center to provider still greater convenience for tourists.

The province is rich in tourism resources and features many beautiful landscapes, cultural sites, and the homes of historical figures. For instance, the Wulingyuan area in Zhangjiajie has been listed among the World Natural Heritage of United Nations, whilst the Yueyang Tower, Yuelu college, and Ma Wangdui ancient tomb, built during the time of the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 24), are widely acclaimed as historical sites with a great influence on Chinese traditional culture.

In addition, the province was once home to many famous historical figures, including Zeng Guofan and Zuo Zongtang, famous generals in the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Huang Xing and Cai E, renowned reformers and generals in the early 20th century, and Mao Zedong and Liu Shaoqi, the famous founders of New China.

Yang said: "These cultural and natural heritage sites provide us with ideal resources to accelerate the development of local tourism."

(China Daily September 10, 2009)

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