Guide county balances pros and cons of tourism

Updated: 2012-07-05 10:01

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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As head of the tourism bureau in Guide county, Qinghai province, Qin Yulan is concerned.

More than 500,000 tourists visited Guide county during the first five months of 2012. Compared with the same period in 2011, this represents an increase of 30 percent and revenues from tourism increased 82 percent.

While the rise of tourism is good for the local economy and the 30-year-old is happy about this, she adds that she is worried about the impact on the environment.

"Rapid development could be harmful to the environment and affect local traditions."

While Guide government works on improving tourism facilities, building a national geopark and opening a boat-cruise route on the Yellow River, Qin says it is important to maintain a balance, and keeping Yellow River clean is of the utmost importance.

Yellow River runs nearly 80 km through Guide county and is the river's cleanest section.

"For locals, Yellow River provides a living and they have a special connection with it. We want the waters to be clean forever and maintain local traditions."

Qin says 30 percent of the people in Guide county have given up agriculture and turned to tourism. Children have been sent to boarding schools and parents are busy opening restaurants, hotels, or becoming drivers and tour guides.

"Fast urbanization has brought change, but apparently it's the old traditions that are seen as charming."

There were relatively few tourist attractions in the province five years ago, although Qinghai Lake attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The Qinghai government invested 1.2 billion yuan ($189 million) in 2012 developing 28 tourism projects, such as highways and tourist sites. The government has also signed contracts with 30 travel agencies to promote tourism.

Qinghai province borders the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region to the northwest and Tibet on its south. Han Chinese account for about 55 percent of the population, Tibetans about 21 percent and Hui 16 percent.

"Tourists come and go. Most of them just see the scenery, Tibetan people and the mountains. They are curious about this place," Qin says. "But Qinghai is so big it deserves more exploration."

She grew up in a village in Huzhu Tu autonomous county, Qinghai province, and began to work in Guide county in 1994.

"If you want to know the local culture, you should stay with local families and find out about their traditions, rather than simply sitting in the bus and taking pictures."