Hainan Wuzhishan County increases budget to promote eco-tourism
But for the local government in the county of Wuzhishan, in China’s Hainan province, the two are very much intertwined.
It is doubling its eco-tourism budget, in the hopes of boosting its economy.
With an average annual temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, and air quality said to be one of the best in China, it is little wonder Wuzhishan in Hainan province is becoming a popular getaway for city dwellers in the mainland.
Tourist numbers in 2012 grew 50 per cent from the previous year to more than a million.
To further boost growth, the local government has allocated US$3.2 million to the sector this year — double that of last year.
The funds will be used to build infrastructure to support eco-tourism, as well as develop other environmentally-friendly sectors.
Zeng Jiefei, deputy head of Wuzhishan Tourism Department, said: "Tourism in Wuzhishan is dependent on protecting our ecosystem. This expenditure will allow enterprises to better develop and protect our environment, as they grow. We don’t have any form of industrialization in Wuzhishan, so spending on the tourism industry is itself a way to protect the environment."
VeloChina, a travel agency providing cycling tours in Hainan, is one recipient of this government help.
It was given rent-free office space in the city.
With the rental savings, it can now spend more on areas like advertising.
Its cycling tours are increasingly popular, as incomes and health consciousness rise.
Previously focused on customers from Europe and the US, the agency switched to target more domestic tourists in the beginning of this year, as demand from the West declined.
To appeal to the mainland tourists, it is designing tours for bigger groups of between 30 and 50 cyclists.
Frank Ji, CEO of VeloChina Travel Service, said: "To cater to the spending power of the domestic market, we aim to spread the cost among more people. For customized bicycle tours, the average cost per person per day is about 1000 yuan. If it’s an open tour with more participants, that cost can be reduced to about 300 to 400 yuan."
A bigger government budget also means greater responsibility and more supervision needed to make sure these funds are channelled into the right areas.
Cycling enthusiasts are hoping these will include things like more comprehensive road signs and maps to promote this new form of eco-tourism.
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