Airspace opened to sightseeing flights

Updated: 2016-07-22 11:14


Mao Weihua in Urumqi and Xu Wei in Beijing

(China Daily)

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Xinjiang hopes to boost tourist numbers by offering low-altitude aerial views of some of its most scenic spots

 Airspace opened to sightseeing flights

A member of the AviClub Aviation Club on one of the club's airplanes in Burqin county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Mao Weihua / China Daily

Authorities in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region are looking to boost tourist numbers by opening up more low-altitude airspace to sightseeing aircraft and hot-air balloons.

The regional tourism administration has put forward a number of potential routes for tourists looking to experience the region's charms from the air.

It prioritized the development of low-altitude tourism in its list of the region's top 100 development programs, published last year.

"The prospects for low-altitude tourism in Xinjiang are immeasurable. The sector is also expanding at a rate that is much faster than those in other provincial areas," said Li Jidong, Party chief of Xinjiang's regional tourism administration.

He said there are now at least six civil aviation clubs in the region, which have already developed a number of low-altitude tourism flights.

Regional officials are keen to identify ways to revitalize Xinjiang's tourism industry, after visitor numbers dropped by 40 percent between May 2013 and May 2014 due to the effect of terrorist attacks.

The industry showed signs of bouncing back last year, as the region recorded nearly 61 million passenger-trips, up 23.1 percent year-on-year. It also attracted 1.68 million foreign tourists last year, according to the regional bureau of statistics.

Tao Runwen, deputy general manager of Xinjiang Airport Group Co Ltd, said low-altitude flights will enable tourists to overcome travel difficulties associated with the region's size.

 Airspace opened to sightseeing flights

An airplane of the AviClub is on a test fly. Mao Weihua / China Daily

"It will help tourists save time that they would have spent on the roads and shorten the distance they have to travel. They can also enjoy an aerial view of the beautiful scenery along the way," he said.

Tao noted that the region now has 19 airports in service, with more still under construction.

Zhang Guangqing, office director of Xinjiang Jinsilu Phoenix General Aviation Co, said his company offers tourists the chance to see inside a deserted jade mine and fly over a desert park in a helicopter at an altitude of 3,000 meters.

The jade mine, located in the south of Manas county in the Changji Hui autonomous prefecture, is otherwise difficult to access by tourists due to the complicated terrain. The journey between the county and the jade mine is cut to one hour from about 7 days by the low-altitude flights, Zhang said.

"We are also looking to extend our services to the whole of Changji prefecture and the whole region," he said.

Low-altitude flights are also now available to tourists who are bound for Kanas Lake in Burqin county of Altay prefecture.

Shuan Jianhui, general manager of the AviClub Aviation Club, said his company had launched three tourism products in Burqin to tap the potential of the local tourism market.

Using two civil aviation aircraft that can take 11 tourists at a time, the products offer a unique aerial view of the region's scenic spots, he said.

Yang Qin, a tourist from Manas county who took a helicopter trip to get an aerial view of her hometown, described the experience as "mind-blowing and visually stunning".

Yang Mingxuan, a tourist from Bukang county who had just taken her first hot-air balloon flight, said she was amazed by the scenery she saw from the air.

"I was slightly scared when the hot-air balloon took off from the ground. But I was amazed by what was in front of me. It was like a fairy-tale come to life," she said.

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