Opinion / Wang Hui

Official inefficiency turns tourist site into lost paradise

By Wang Hui (China Daily) Updated: 2015-07-30 08:03

Official inefficiency turns tourist site into lost paradise

Qiu He, deputy head of the Yunnan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, is investigated. [Photo/IC]

My recent trip to Kunming in Southwest China's Yunnan province was quite disappointing: the food was exotic and delicious, and the climate pleasant, but I did not enjoy them. The greedy local tourism industry and the failure to treat the polluted Dianchi Lake, China's sixth-largest freshwater lake, have eroded my interest in this famous tourist destination.

Thanks to its beyond-description natural beauty and round-the-year mild weather, Kunming is known as "the city of spring". Although my journalist career has taken me to many places around the country, I had never set foot on this wonderland. Yet after joining a one-day organized tour to the famous scenic spot Stone Forest and taking a self-service trip to the Dianchi Lake the following day, I felt like going straight back home. As they say, the more one expects, the more one could be disappointed.

We found the only way to the Stone Forest was to join a one-day trip, because there is no convenient public transport to cover the distance of about 80 kilometers. Advertisement leaflets at the hotel lobby indicated such a trip could be unreasonably cheap. So we booked one such that cost only 100 yuan ($16.1) per person and set out at 8 am the next day.

It turned out to be my worst tourist experience in years. The trip included two one-hour visits to shopping centers in the morning, a simple lunch around 1:30 pm, one-and-half-hours of Stone Forest sightseeing, which is far from enough for the stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, and another one-hour shopping center visit in the afternoon.

I ended up buying some 2,000 yuan worth of jewelry, which I hardly needed, on the plea of the guide who said her income depended largely on the commission from tourists' spending. Unreasonably cheap trips are the main problem plaguing the domestic tourism market, and Yunnan has been on top of the tourist complaint list for that. This time, we experienced it firsthand.

Though the local tourist watchdog has repeatedly pledged to crack down on such cheap trips, a video showing a guide from a Yunnan travel agency lashing out at tourists for not spending enough was leaked during the May Day holiday; such clips have frequently revealed the chaotic tourism sector in the province.

Having learned a hard lesson at the Stone Forest, we decided to take a self-service trip to the Dianchi Lake the next day. The public transport was adequate and cheap, but the scenery was a letdown. Because of industrial pollution, the lake water is thick with blue algae, and occasionally one could see dead fish floating on its sickeningly greenish surface. Years ago I wrote an opinion piece about ,treatment in the lake, but not much seems to have changed.

Media reports say in the five years starting from 2011, provincial authorities have pledged to spend 28.6 billion yuan ($4.6 billion) for the comprehensive treatment of the lake's polluted water. It appears the huge amount of money is going to waste.

In the ongoing national anti-corruption campaign, Yunnan has been seriously hit with several former high-ranking provincial-level officials being ferreted out for "serious violations of Party discipline and laws". Though there is no direct link between these officials and the local problem-laden tourism industry or the province's inefficiency in cleansing the lake water, there is little doubt that the fallen officials failed to deliver quality public services and good governance.

They have also set a bad example in the province's officialdom and contaminated the working style of local officials. All these have had a negative impact on various aspects of society, including creating disorder in the tourism sector and exacerbating the environmental problems.

Maintaining a clean government and improving public services are two important duties that officials in provinces like Yunnan need to fulfill, and fulfill in time.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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