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Going rural: New trend for Chinese urbanites

China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-11 09:44
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GUIYANG - Having lived in a city for years, retiree Pi Yu wanted to escape the endless flow of cars, the concrete high-rises and the fast-paced life.

"I've lived in the city too long. I want to relax and go back to the country," said the 57-year-old who teaches at a vocational school.

Pi now lives in a village house 65 kilometers from Guiyang in Guizhou province. She cultivates Chinese roses and orchids and grows her own vegetables in the idyllic water town.

She did not buy the house, however, as land for houses is collectively owned. Unlike urban apartments, rural houses are not publicly sold.

In 2018, she joined a program launched by a village tourism company that transforms decrepit rural houses into hotels.

She invested 200,000 yuan ($29,800) and the company helped her secure a matching loan. She can live in one of the rooms for free for 20 years, farm the land and share the hotel dividends.

"The people in the city have the money, the farmers have vacant houses and the company offers services in hotel management - a win-win-win situation," said Xiao Jintao, vice-manager of Guizhou Shuidong Village Housing Tourism Co.

China's urbanization rate reached 60 percent as of the end of last year, with more than 830 million people now living in cities. As people move into cities, around 20 percent of the old houses in rural areas are left vacant, Xiao said, referring to an assessment of villages in Guizhou.

"These rural houses are an excellent retreat for people who are bored living in cities and desire a more rural lifestyle," Xiao said.

Under the company's plan, each investor puts in $30,000 to $150,000 to turn a vacant house into a hotel. The three parties divide the earnings. When the lease expires in 20 years, ownership reverts to the farmers.

Pi renovated a 40-year-old house in Longguang village. She kept backyard rooms that were used to make bricks and cure tobacco for what she calls a cool weekend town feel.

"It was a major face-lift. The house looked like an ugly maid. Now it is as charming as Snow White," she said.

In Kaiyang county, more than 80 investors like Pi have renovated 120 houses. Local banks have offered loans to finance the renovation and tourism infrastructure spending. And booming rural tourism has brought handsome earnings for investors.

"In the last six months, each investor received around 20,000 yuan, and the farmers got 6,000 yuan each," Xiao said.

Villager Chen Huasong is a participant in the program. He moved away with his son, and his old house was used to store firewood.

"I tried renting out my 12 rooms before, but I didn't know that guests would need slippers. There were no TVs or separate bathrooms. People just stopped coming," he said.

Now hotel owners manage their properties through an app. Lodgers spend around 198 yuan to 268 yuan per night. Last year, five restaurants were opened in the village, creating more than 50 jobs.


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