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Tourism benefits economy, environmental protection

By Camilla Tenn | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-13 09:02

Tourism benefits economy, environmental protection

Communities in the Huanggang Dabieshan Geopark have seen improvements in their surrounding environment. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Xiao Chunhua, 51, has been the Party chief of Shengrentang village in Luotian county in Huanggang, Hubei province for 20 years. She has represented local residents for the past two decades and has seen many changes, especially since the establishment of the Huanggang Dabieshan Geopark in 2007, in which the county is located.

At meetings with authorities, Xiao puts forward ideas on how to improve residents' employment options and launch e-commerce networks to enable locals to sell their produce across China. With the establishment of the geological park, the opportunities available to nearby communities have increased and improved rapidly. Of the 175 households in her town, Xiao said 120 are directly involved in providing tourism-related services to those visiting the park.

Whether by opening a restaurant-as Xiao has-offering accommodation, or contributing to the tourism industry in another way, the community in Luotian has benefited immensely from the business the park has brought.

Investment from the park authorities has made all the difference. Where mud-brick houses once stood, there are now decorative residential buildings that reflect local, traditional Luotian county architecture, with striking, curved roofs.

The geological park straddles two counties, each with rich cultural heritage that the park has worked hard to protect and promote. Farmers Chen Hongzhou, 54, and Wang Shouchong, 71, from Yingshan county, said the changes are most noticeable in the improvement of the surrounding environment. Primarily, highways have replaced dirt tracks, with the park and its partners pouring in 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in infrastructure investment. The larger roads have opened up infinite opportunities for Chen, Wang and their peers, as they can now sell their produce to a much larger market. The roads also bring in visitors, offering more chances of new business ventures-both Chen and Wang have opened restaurants and accommodations for tourists.

Chen said the visitors notice improvements in the environment year to year as they return for further trips. Wang added people come from Wuhan and Shanghai for the clear air, blue skies and greenery. They both help to protect the area's rich and diverse natural resources, improving the quality of vegetation and their crops, and also draw in ever more tourists.

Local entrepreneur Li Beiqing, 49, from Luotian county strikes a similar balance between preserving heritage and providing tourist services in running his river rafting business. Visitors can enjoy the thrill of drifting along several kilometers of rapids under his team's careful guidance. Part of their care, though, is for the environment through which the tourists pass on their boats. Li said not one stone has been removed or harmed by his business, as part of their contribution to the park's efforts to protect the geological heritage of the Dabie Mountain area.

It's a self-perpetuating cycle: Tourists come for the stunning natural wonders, locals benefit from the tourism income by offering services, thus expanding the park's capacity for tourists and drawing yet more crowds.

The examples of how the park and its 100,000 inhabitants support each other are endless, resulting in mutual benefits that are clear to all.

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