Thu, March 26, 2009
Lifestyle > Travel

Crystal clear

2009-03-26 10:33:40 GMT2009-03-26 18:33:40 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Picture-perfect Lijiang River in Guilin.

Longji terraced paddy near Guilin.

Famed for its green hills, clear streams and fantastic caves and rocks, picturesque Guilin, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, has long been a magnet for tourists from home and abroad.

But the city is not resting on its laurels and has embarked on an ambitious plan to boost its tourism industry.

One of the goals is to develop Guilin into a "paradise for outdoor sports". The city's beautiful landscape is not the only draw for outdoor sports enthusiasts. Its air quality, for example, is ranked among the top three of 46 cities in China. Guilin is particularly suited to such sports as rock climbing, rafting, cycling, bungee jumping and hiking.

Guilin has emerged as one of the top rock climbing playgrounds in Asia. In 2006, the first Invitational (Guilin) Climbing Competition was held in Yinziyan scenic zone and this annual event has since been attracting an increasing number of participants and visitors.

The Wupai River is ideal for those seeking an exhilarating rafting expedition, offering a long stretch of 30 km. It is the only venue in the country qualified to host world canoeing competitions.

Home to 28 ethnic groups, Guilin boasts a rich cultural heritage. Longsheng county, for example, is a favorite with backpackers looking to enjoy the spectacular terraced rice fields and experience the unique lifestyle of the Zhuang and Yao minorities.

These ethnic groups continue to maintain their traditional lifestyles of men planting crops and women weaving cloth.

Guilin also has many places of historical and archeological value.

The Guihai Forest of Steles, for instance, is one of the three largest forests of steles in China and features a stone inscription dating back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Ling Canal, which dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), is one of the oldest canals in the world. The ingenious design of the irrigation system has kept it functioning for more than 2,000 years, making it one of the living wonders of the ancient world.

Last year, the Guilin tourism bureau organized a photo exhibition Guilin - The Beautiful Face of China at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, showcasing the city's many attractions to a Western audience.

To build upon the success of this show, the bureau is now working with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to devote a section of its website to the city.

It will also partner UNWTO to host the Third Tourism Trends and Research Forum in July.

More than 16 million people visited the city in 2008, of whom 1.25 million were from abroad, generating tourism revenue of 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion). This year, the local government is looking to receive 17 million visitors and a revenue of 12 billion yuan.

"We still have a lot of work to do to improve our services in Guilin," says Li Zhigang, director general of the tourism bureau.

For example, a number of language training programs have been launched in the service sector.

"Such efforts will ensure that foreign tourists can find their way and enjoy their time here in Guilin, even without knowing any Chinese," says Li.

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