World Tourism Alliance Case Studies in Rural Revitalization: How forgotten areas became thriving tourist hotspots

World Tourism Alliance Case Studies in Rural Revitalization: How forgotten areas became thriving tourist hotspots

By Director Xue Ling, China National Tourist Office, London

Since the formation of the World Tourism Alliance (WTA), the organisation has advocated for change, and a better life for all, via sustainable tourism. The WTA’s mission for “Better Tourism, Better Life, Better World”, and its vision of “promoting peace, development and poverty alleviation” shine through in every aspect of their admirable work.

It is well known that China is vast, with the largest population in the world, and there is an unfathomable quantity of diverse people, land, and lifestyles. With so much on offer to explore as a tourist, the question isn’t “what is there to do?” but rather, “what can’t you do!”

Throughout the pandemic, the tourism sector has taken a massive hit. A previously flourishing industry, citizens worldwide had the chance to enjoy adventures in completely different spheres. When we travel, we gain the fortune of unique experiences and human connections. If we cannot share our individual cultures, then the world changes for the worse.

The WTA joined the World Bank (WB) and the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) to share the outcomes of the WTA Best Practices in Poverty Alleviation through Tourism. The heart-warming stories of poverty alleviation through tourism were presented internationally and received critical acclaim for their outstandingly powerful imagery and inspiring message of togetherness.

China is rich in culture and history, with the past 100 years representing a fascinating study of innovative development and collective advancement. Due to the country’s immense magnitude, unfortunately, some areas were neglected, until now. The WTA works to lift these impoverished areas by constructing long-term solutions. Each project strives to create industries that are applicable to each location, no matter how remote. With the appropriate planning and investment, a self-sustainable economy is established, guaranteeing a secure future.

To celebrate the outstanding progress, in cooperation with the WB and IPRCC, the WTA is releasing the WTA Best Practices of Rural Revitalization through Tourism 2021. These 50 engaging case studies are curated from various sources, including the WTA’s member units, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China, the National Administration for Rural Revitalization, and provincial culture and tourism departments.

Each case study has been selected with the criteria of meeting the benchmark of sustainability, measurable results, and positive social change. China National Tourist Office London is honoured to share these stories as one of the supporting activities to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Lawful Seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations.

Your hometown is ingrained into your character, and many people do not wish to depart from that familiarity. However, if opportunities are scarce, and therefore the local economy shows little growth, sometimes there is no choice. All over China, there are secluded communities where the young have had to move away for job prospects, leaving the older population to take up agricultural labour. As a result of this migration, harvests may not be as abundant. An additional difficulty arises due to cultivation being entirely dependent on the season, meaning that, if a village relies on farming profits to survive, then the economy is precarious and does not benefit all.

Another common challenge crops up in these forgotten locations. Often, the districts boast beautiful, untouched landscapes and ancient history. On one hand, the natural scenery must be protected. But on another, this may produce poor living conditions, such as unsafe roads, inadequate hygiene facilities, and insufficient amenities. Ensuring the environment is preserved is particularly important to the WTA as well as the original residents of these sites. With thorough planning, it’s possible to merge phenomenal natural scenes with modern conveniences, leading to a desirable holiday destination and a better quality of life for the locals.

In all instances, the income of the residents has grown exponentially. Employment rates have majorly increased, and the young who previously left often come home to exciting possibilities. The WTA collaborates meticulously with local organisations, governments, and investors to ensure each project is a fully thought-out and sophisticated master plan.

By creating local co-operatives, the villager’s input is considered every step of the way. The area’s strengths are reformed into carefully considered businesses; for example, Yuanba Village in Guangdong Province, which relied solely on lychee farming for its income. Now, the residents of Yuanba Village have been educated on how to effectively utilize their natural resources and the best routes to promoting their famous lychees. Revenue from the lychee business is no longer unsteady, and the profits are shared equally amongst the locals.

Plenty of settlements in China have retained their ancient architecture. The history behind these stunning locations is captivating and tourists are keen on visiting them, however, for modern times upgrades are required. Unused buildings have been reconstructed into charming boutique B&Bs, which bring capital to the area and offer employment to many of the citizens. The boutique B&B sector is a more recent concept in China, but despite that, business is booming, which demonstrates an open-mindedness to exciting prospective possibilities.

At the forefront of the development projects are ethnic minority cultures. It is fundamental to ensure their traditional folk customs and native habitats are well protected and integral to the innovative tourist ventures. Although the tourism industry has suffered greatly in the pandemic, these newfound tourist hotspots will adapt, persevere, and eventually prosper.

At the point of writing, the WTA has reinvigorated these 50 locations in China by forming a myriad of new businesses — employing thousands and raising the income of countless people across the country. Most importantly, poverty has enormously decreased nationwide. Once-forgotten areas are now sustainable and ecologically sound tourist hotspots.

This is just a small glimpse into the incredible progress that has been made, thanks to rural revitalization. The social and economic development continues to flourish with blueprints for the next steps laid out to assure local economies are secure, in line not only with the pledge to alleviate poverty across the population but also with the core philosophy of harmonious coexistence with nature. The WTA continues to expertly strategize and allocate charitable contributions, with the promise to uplift those less fortunate, empowering communities to prosper both economically and ecologically. In keeping with its mission, the WTA is committed to being a leading voice in advancing rural revitalisation and public welfare initiatives for a “Better Tourism, Better Life, Better World.”

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