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Tourism helps boost income for Uygur families

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-05-24 10:31

Shaphati Turhanjan works as a tour guide in Yining in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, and his business is booming.

Yining is the capital of Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture, located about an hour flight west of Urumqi, the regional capital. While the city has expanded rapidly in recent years, traditional houses, local craftsmanship and Uygur culture have been preserved.

In 2014, the local government started to develop tourism in the old town, which dates back to the 17th century. So far, a 4.2 square-kilometer area has been developed.

The local government paid residents to build public toilets, pave roads, build sewerage pipes and repair dilapidated buildings.

"Our tour packages include horse rides, visits to Uygur homes, tasting local cuisine and observing craftsmen make iron ware and horse saddles," said Turhanjan, who has been a guide for three years.

The old town has over 120,000 residents from 13 ethnic groups. The majority, about 77 percent, are Uygur.

During the busy season, from April to September every year, Turhanjan and his colleagues guide 10,000 tourists around the old town.

"My company has signed contracts with 30 local families who allow tourists to come into their homes, see how they live, and maintain their traditional houses. The company splits the profit with the homeowners," Turhanjan said.

A tour around the old town usually takes around 90 minutes, he said.

Aziyam Izi, 54, gets up at 5 a.m. to prepare her 83-year-old house to receive tourists at nine. "I make the beds, dust the furniture, and prepare some snacks for visitors," she said.

When she has errands to run or events to attend, she calls the tour operators to let them know she is unavailable. "But usually I open my door to welcome visitors every day. I want to learn some foreign languages, because we sometimes have European visitors," she said.

"It is good to have some extra income, so I don't have to ask my husband for everything," Izi said. She earns over 40,000 yuan (about $5,797) a year from the visits and selling hand-made crafts.

Uygur housewife Puchnayi Dawlati learnt how to make ice cream from her father. She sells over 50 kilograms of handmade ice cream to visitors daily.

"I use milk and eggs, no additives. People love my ice cream. I like summer because business is good," she said.

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