Zhangjiajie yields fruitful achievements in poverty relief through tourism

By Li Liandi | Updated : Sep 16, 2020

The photo taken on July 31 shows tourists experience Tujia banquet and enjoy local folk performances in Zhangjiajie Tujia Folk Customs Park. In recent years, scenic spots in Zhangjiajie have carried out high-quality and characteristic cultural tourism activities to stimulate tourist market and boost poverty relief through tourism.  Photo by Li Jian, Hunan Daily.
Located in the northwest of Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie is an emerging tourist city with abundant tourist resources. The nature endows Zhangjiajie with the most beautiful scenery in the world, but because of the remoteness and isolation, many villages are severely impoverished.  

Over eighty years ago, it’s the center of revolutionary bases in the border areas of Hunan and Hubei provinces, the western areas of Hunan and Hubei provinces, Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces. The 2nd Front Red Army started its Long March right from here. More than 200,000 people devoted themselves to the great revolution, and 60,000 people sacrificed their lives for it.

“As one of the first batch of national pilot cities for comprehensive tourism reform, we played a leading role in Hunan’s tourism industry, explored an innovative mode of poverty relief through tourism, and created a typical sample of targeted poverty relief through tourism.” Guo Zhenggui, secretary of the CPC Zhangjiajie Municipal Committee, summarized the achievements made by Zhangjiajie in recent years.

The “Zhangjiajie Sample” of poverty alleviation through tourism was staged on the headquarters of UNESCO in June, 2019 and a wonderful speech entitled “Sustainable Tourism & Poverty Alleviation in World Heritage Sites” presented the experience of poverty relief through tourism in Zhangjiajie.

Tourist routes across mountains and valleys to poor villages

When Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Tianmen Mount scenic spot were full of tourists, Sangzhi, with rich folk songs, and Cili, with abundant tourist resources was still struggled in poverty.

In 2017, the city issued the Opinion on Playing a Leading Role in the Construction of All-for-one Tourism Base. Focusing on transportation, large-scale infrastructure construction started in the whole city, benefiting Sangzhi and Cili, two national poverty-stricken counties.  

In a few years, Sangzhi has built 12 major traffic lines. Five tourist roads connect the excellent eco-culture tourist routes in western Hunan Province and excellent tourist routes in Zhangjiajie, Jishou and Huaihua cities. The Jiutian Fenglian scenic spot was improved to 4A scenic spot. Liujiaping, where the Memorial Hall of the Red Army started the Long March, and Hongjiaguan, where the 4A scenic spot Memorial Hall of He Long lies, became popular red tourist areas.

Together with rural tourist routes, the two scenic spots helped 38 poor villages in Sangzhi County shake off poverty through developing green resources, red tourism and colorful Bai cultures. Relevant industries including ecological sightseeing park, leisure farm and farmhouses have emerged, helping 10,547 poor people get rid of poverty and become rich.
Thanks to the innovative marketing of the Glass Bridge in Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon scenic area, the world’s highest and longest bridge of this kind, the scenic spot pays more than 100 million yuan taxes every year. The local people also sees their income rising.

The method for poverty relief through scenic spots plus tourist routes attracted many young people who once worked outside to return to their hometown. Statistics shows that scenic spots including Wulingyuan, Tianmen Mount and Grand Canyon directly helped the surrounding 24 poor villages and 23,000 poor people get rid of poverty and become rich, with an annual per capita income increase of more than 1,200 yuan. The city’s three industrial belts for poverty alleviation through tourism and 24 excellent rural tourist routes have driven 205 villages, 18,600 poor households and 60,000 poor people to increase income.  
Local specialties selling well due to tourism helps poverty relief

In the past, tourists could only enjoy beautiful scenery, but couldn’t find local specialties to purchase in Zhangjiajie. In order to change this situation, in recent years, Zhangjiajie has made great efforts to develop tourist products, built a service center for tourist products, and guided enterprises to develop time-honored and ethnic tourist commodities. The poor households in the deep mountains have increased their income through tourist commodities.

There are 5,333 hectares of meicha tea on the hillsides of Zhangjiajie, which is a “magic tea” that Tujia people have drunk for 600 years. It is now sold to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and southeast Asia, with an annual output value of nearly one billion yuan. Sangzhi has good geological conditions in developing tea industry, as it is located near 30 degrees north latitude, the gold belt for tea growth. Therefore, white tea has become a key industry for poverty relief. There are many tea parks and enterprises in the county, benefiting 35,000 poor households.   

Ding Shiju, founder of Guaiyaomei Tujia Brocade Company in Wulingyuan District, built a Tujia brocade production base with the support of the local governments in 2013. Ding Shiju built three bases in Sangzhi County, Yongding and Wulingyuan districts, with more than 300 workers, more than 1,200 trainees. Over 600 kinds of products are exported to more than 30 countries in Europe and America. 80% of the base’s income is returned to the poor households. 580,000 yuan was distributed to 1,463 registered poor households in 12 villages in 2019.

The mode of “leading enterprises plus cooperatives plus bases plus tourist shopping” has developed many “Zhangjiajie gifts” such as meicha tea, Tujia brocade and Sangzhi white tea, cultivated tourist product enterprises, with an output value of 4.5 billion yuan. It has also helped 12,000 poor households shake off poverty.

Nowadays, Zhangjiajie’s tourist products get aboard the fast train of e-commerce. All poor villages can enjoy services provided by the e-commerce public service center across the city. Gu Siyu, a poverty-stricken household in Hongjiaguan Bai Township, Sangzhi County, has realized an annual sales of nearly two million yuan through free e-commerce training and her efforts.

In 2019, the sales of agricultural products in poverty-stricken villages of the city realized 93.19 million yuan, helping 9,105 poor households. In the first six months this year, live commerce was introduced into villages, and the sales of poverty relief products in Sangzhi County reached 4.5244 million yuan.

Charming folklore performances

The large-scale landscape musical Tianmen Fox Fairy, which has been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened on July 31, attracting 1,100 audience. Li Zongli, 41, from Shuangxia Village of Yongding District, was so excited because she can earn money after the resumption of the performance.

Over the past 11 years, the performance has been staged 2,806 times, and received 3.86 million tourists across the world. It directly helped 200 people get rid of poverty, and cooperated with enterprises and schools to solve 2,360 students’ employment and provide 1,800 students’ with part-time work.

Meanwhile, the folklore performance Charming Xiangxi in Wulingyuan District has driven 300 local residents to shake off poverty, with an average annual income of more than 30,000 yuan.

In various scenic spots of Zhangjiajie, there are six such live performances, which are all very popular. In addition to wonderful performances, boutique homestay hotels also attract many tourists.

Homestay hotels which integrate idyllic scenery and folk customs were the first to resume in Zhangjiajie this year. The 1,280 homestay hotels in Zhangjiajie have provided jobs for more than 4,000 villagers and helped 48,000 people shake off poverty and become rich.

During the COVID-19 pandemic period, activities like “viewing Zhangjiajie scenery online”, 47 live streaming programs, and a folk song “Don’t Go” with a total number of over 7 billion clicks, ignited the urgent desires of tourists to travel to Zhangjiajie.   

The global tourism industries have been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic this year. And Zhangjiajie has lost nearly 2 billion yuan due to the pandemic.
However, the city has made full preparations for a new start. Scenic spots and tourist enterprises have carried out online business training and developed new products. Huanglong Cave was the first to use wireless audio device across the nation; Guaiyaomei Tujia Brocade Company has developed new characteristic cultural and tourist products; Tianmen Mount scenic spot has opened 3S cableway with the world’s largest climbing angles; and Maoyan River scenic area has built star camping base.

What’s more, various kinds of training like tourist elite training, leisure agriculture talent training and training for rural tourist talents, have given impetus to the upgrading and improvement of tourism.

The international and sustainable top-level design enhances the anti-risk capacity of tourism industry. Zhangjiajie’s Internet smart tourism platform, which is in the forefront of the country, has played a powerful role during the epidemic period. Various innovative marketing including International Music Festival, Poetry Festival and Homestay Festival had a profound influence.

The pandemic made Zhangjiajie people think about the future of tourism. On March 30, Zhangjiajie signed 8 cultural and tourist projects, with a total contract amount of 11.35 billion yuan, covering multiple tourist products, such as health and vacation, cultural tourism complex and ecological leisure. On July 28, the Zhangjiajie SIASUN Robot project with an investment of 2 billion yuan was started. Zhangjiajie also took the lead in the integration of tourism and robots.

After seven years of targeted poverty alleviation, four poverty-stricken areas and counties, 358 poor villages and 243,345 poor households in Zhangjiajie have been lifted out of poverty. 40% of them got rid of poverty through tourism.

Wulingyuan District was the first one to throw off poverty across the province. Cili County has been rated as the provincial demonstration county for poverty alleviation through tourism. And Yongding District has become a national demonstration area for leisure agriculture and rural tourism.
Now, Zhangjiajie is making joint efforts to create a bright future. 

2019 Zhangjiajie Bureau of Culture, Tourism, Broadcasting and Sports