UNESCO honor to attract more global tourists to Hangzhou's West Lake

Updated: 2011-07-07 12:20

By Patrick Whiteley (chinadaily.com.cn)

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UNESCO honor to attract more global tourists to Hangzhou's West Lake

Li Hong (Left), Director General of Hangzhou Tourism Commission talks with China Daily reporter Patrick Whiteley


More international tourists are expected to flock to Hangzhou in the coming years after the city's famous West Lake was inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the lake and surrounding hills, joins 40 other Chinese icons, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an, as a world heritage treasure.

Li Hong, Director General of Hangzhou Tourism Commission, said the World Heritage Committee's decision to rank the West Lake in such high esteem would create a tourist windfall.

"The West Lake is very famous tourist attraction for the Chinese people attracting more than 60 million visits per year, and now we expect more people from around the world to discover its beauty," Li said.

"We expect more international tour companies to add Hangzhou's West Lake to their China travel itineraries. "

Li said that for more than 1000 years, West Lake has always been the spiritual home of Chinese culture and a paradise on earth for Chinese people from all walks of life.

"The West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout the ages for its natural beauty and historical relics, and it has been among the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers," Li said.

"It will also be an inspiration for international tourists from all over the world who can discover one of China's true treasures for themselves."

The landscape covers an area of 3,322.88 hectares, including the 559.30-hectare West Lake, two pagodas, three causeways, three artificial isles, and numerous temples, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees. The cultural landscape of the West Lake initiated in the 9th Century, took shape in the 13th Century and had been thrived since the 18th Century.

The lake, which has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), is testimony to Chinese landscape aesthetics.

UNESCO honor to attract more global tourists to Hangzhou's West Lake 

"The landscape belongs to not just Hangzhou, but also to (the rest of) China and the whole world," says Wang Guoping, director of the Standing Committee of the Hangzhou Municipal People's Congress, who led the UNESCO listing application.

Although the World Heritage title is an honor, it is also an important obligation, and Li said the Hangzhou government has taken various measures to ward off the negative impact brought by excessive tourism. The government has recently approved a draft plan to control the number of vehicles and tourists entering the scenic spots. Li said local authorities first initiated conservation plans in 2002 when a comprehensive protection project was officially launched.

A new town was built for the city's economic development, leaving the old city area as a protection zone for West Lake.

As part of the project, more than 180 scenic spots restored or rebuilt and almost 1-square-kilometer of the lake was regained.

When British physicist Stephen Hawking visited in 2002, he regretted not being able to tour the lake by himself on his wheelchair. But now barrier-free facilities have been built everywhere.

Li said the ultimate goal of applying for the world heritage status is to protect and sustain the West Lake.

"We will strive to preserve this China treasure for the next 1000 years, so future generations can enjoy this paradise on earth," Li said.