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China pushes for forest tourism

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-08-21 17:15
The Haba Lake Ecotourism Area in Northwest China’s Ningxia Hui autonomous region is known as a natural “biological gene pool” in the western desert of China. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

YINCHUAN -- Amid China's ecological protection efforts, the government is pushing for realizing the economic value of lucid waters and lush mountains through tourism development and poverty alleviation programs.

More than 300 experts, scholars and officials of forest parks and scenic spots attended a symposium on "poverty alleviation through developing forest parks and forest tourism" in the city of Guyuan, Northwest China's Ningxia Hui autonomous region, on Tuesday.

Speaking at the symposium, Lan Siren, president of the Forest Park and Forest Tourism Branch of the China Forestry Association, said most of the poverty-stricken areas in China are located in mountainous and forest areas, and poverty alleviation through forest tourism has unique geographical and industrial advantages.

According to the latest data from the State Forestry and Grass Administration available at the symposium, there are 898 national forest parks in China, covering an area of 14.66 million hectares, which together draw 1.6 billion visitors annually, accounting for 28.9 percent of the total number of domestic tourists.

Forest tourism has created a comprehensive social output value of 1.5 trillion yuan ($212 billion), accounting for 29.2 percent of the country's domestic tourism income.

The figures also showed that there are 1.1 million impoverished individuals living in the forest areas. The local authorities are making efforts to increase their income by developing forest tourism, which contributes an average annual income of 3,500 yuan per household.

The symposium was held in Guyuan to showcase the city's forest tourism development achievements.

Located in the southern mountainous region of Ningxia, Guyuan was considered "unsuitable for human survival" by the United Nations Food and Development Programme in 1972, because of its fragile ecology and persistent droughts.

After decades of ecological rehabilitation efforts, coupled with grazing bans, it now boasts a total area of forestry land of 4.22 million mu (281,333 hectares) with a 73-percent coverage rate of forest and grass.

Pengyang County in Guyuan received 300,000 visitors during its Mountain Flower Festival in April. Through developing tourism, the county officially lifted its cap on poverty at the end of April.

Lan Siren warned that the development of domestic forest tourism is still at its initial state with problems of low-level infrastructure and a lack of forest tourism products. After tackling the hard nut of poverty alleviation, local authorities should consider the promotion of eco-tourism, he said.

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