GUIYANG, July 29 (Xinhua) — In the county of Shiqian, impoverished villagers used local hot springs to wash clothes, vegetables and smoked meat, but these days, the springs have washed away their poverty and translated into big bucks.
Shiqian is a small county located in Tongren City, southwest China’s Guizhou Province. It is famous for its rich, high-quality hot spring resources.
In recent years, authorities have prompted development in the local tourism sector, with a hot spring tourist site attracting flocks of visitors. The tourist attraction includes two major hot spring sites, as well as ancient buildings, mountains and lakes, ethnic villages and a former revolutionary site.
Last year, the attraction’s two hot spring sites received 1.14 million tourists, with tourism revenue of 193.3 million yuan (29.7 million U.S. dollars), official statistics showed. In the first half of this year, one of the two sites has already attracted about 203,000 tourists, with tourism revenue of 24.3 million yuan.
“The hot springs truly transformed fortunes here,” said Qin Huiming, a local official in charge of the hot spring tourist attraction.
HOT SPRINGS, COLD ECONOMY
Shiqian was named as “the hometown of hot springs in China” and “the hometown of mineral water in China” in 2009 by the China Mining Association.
There are many hot springs in the area, and they are known for their high quality, local officials said.
“There are 20 natural sites where hot springs flow out, and eight artificial sites,” Qin said.
However, the hot springs failed to bring in impressive economic profits for the local people for a long time because of inadequate development.
“The hot springs were just used for washing,” said Zhang Lulu, an employee at the tourist attraction. “Many villagers would bring along their children and buckets at night to the hot springs, and the children just took baths there.”
ECONOMY HEATS UP
Changes began to take place in the early 21st century.
In 2002, the local government brought in a company to expand the Chengnan Hot Springs, and the site was listed as a state-level scenic spot in 2015.
In 2015, the local government also introduced investment to build Zhongba Hot Springs Town, which officially opened to the public at the end of 2018.
Both sites are now part of the hot spring tourist attraction of Shiqian County.
The hot springs directly brought in benefits for local economic development. The Chengnan Hot Springs and the Zhongba Hot Springs Town generated about 800 jobs.
“It’s good working here,” said Mou Liangfeng, a room service staff at the Zhongba Hot Springs Town. “There is no need for me to seek a job outside the county anymore, and my monthly salary is enough to cover my family’s expenses.”
Mou used to work in east China’s Fujian Province and southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. After the opening of the hot spring town, however, she returned to Shiqian to work.
The booming tourism sector led to the mushrooming of homestays and shops. On the street across from the Zhongba Hot Springs Town stand 11 new homestays and 15 shops selling swimsuits, trunks and swimming caps.
“All the homestays were born after the opening of the town,” said Zhu Dengming, owner of a restaurant located near the town. “In the past, the local villagers were my main customers at the restaurant, and I would not have business after 7 p.m.”
But now, things are different as the number of tourists rises, Zhu said.
“Some visitors come for meals even in the middle of the night, and my annual profit has jumped four times to about 700,000 yuan,” he said.
Chen Shiyu, an owner of a swimsuit stall, said her business is soaring with the increasing number of tourists.
“My daily profit is about 600 yuan in peak seasons,” she said.
Besides hot springs hotels, the local government also pooled in investment for two mineral water plants, with one already in operation and churning out 300,000 tonnes of mineral water each year. The other plant has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tonnes and is undergoing a trial operation.
“People in Shiqian used to live hard lives, but now the hot springs have turned a new page,” said Qin.