Guilin seeks to expand tourism

Updated: 2013-03-27 07:00

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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Guilin seeks to expand tourism

Chen Gang (left), deputy governor of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and Zhao Leqin, Party chief of Guilin city, at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday. ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Guilin, a popular tourist destination renowned for its unique scenery of karst topography, is going to expand its international flights and seek favorable visa policies from the central government to become more of an international tourist destination, the mayor said on Tuesday.

The city now has only five direct international flights, Mayor Huang Junhua said at a news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

Huang said Guilin, which received 1.9 million overseas tourists last year, will expand its airport to make it easier for foreign tourists to visit the city in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. He did not elaborate.

Tripper Diem, who runs a hotel in Yangshuo, a well-know tourist county 66 km from Guilin, said most of his friends from other countries must fly to Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing first, and then fly to Guilin from there.

"Better transportation will make it more convenient to foreign tourists. It will be a big help to Guilin," Diem said.

Huang said Guilin is also striving to give foreign tourists visas upon arrival, but the central government is still considering the request, and "details of the policy still need more discussion".

Guilin was endorsed by the National Development and Reform Commission, China's economic planner, in November, which means the central government will offer favorable policies in support of Guilin's development of its tourism industry.

Wang Wei, director of the social development department of the National Development and Reform Commission, said on Tuesday that special policies will be applied to Guilin to support its development.

So far, the NDRC has approved Hainan and Yunnan provinces as well as Guilin as three reform pilot areas, aiming to explore a way to develop the environment-friendly tourism industry instead of developing polluting industries.

Hainan, at the southern tip of China, has received such favorable policies, including allowing mainland travelers to buy duty-free goods worth up to 8,000 yuan ($1,290) as long as the visitors leave the island by air.

Zhao Leqin, Party chief of Guilin, said special policies will be tailored to support Guilin's development and benefit residents' life as well.

The city government aims to have the tourism industry account for 20 percent of its GDP by 2015, up from the current 18.1 percent, he said.

The city has been appreciated by visitors from both home and abroad, including about 160 presidents and leaders - among them was US president Richard Nixon during his visit to China in 1972.

Scenery of the city appears on the back of the 20 yuan note.

About 200,000 people work in the city's tourism sector.

Huang said the city will continue to have environmental protection on the top of its agenda.

There are three State-level nature reserves and eight provincial-level reserves in Guilin to protect its Lijiang River. The area of nature reserves accounts for 14 percent of the city's territory, he said.

Three reservoirs were built in the upstream of Lijiang River between 2006 and 2010 to prevent the river from drying up in dry periods, he said.

The city will soon work to clear pollution in the river caused by agriculture, he said.