Island embraces the concept of eco-tourism
SHANGHAI aims to turn Chongming Island into a world-class destination for eco-tourism. A spirit of greenness and an emphasis on the natural environment is already taking hold.
Liu Qing, born in the 1980s, owns a rural guesthouse called Zhi Valley 1984 on the eastern side of the island in Xianghua Town. It has large glass windows that look out over green fields. The house was built by his father in 1984.
Liu, who works in downtown Shanghai, collects folk crafts that tell the story of the island and evoke childhood memories in him. At the guesthouse, visitors can see old bamboo baskets, painted ovens and locally woven rugs. There is also an 80-year-old wood dining table where generations of the Liu family have enjoyed meals.
“It was hard at first,” Liu said of the opening of the loft-style bed-and-breakfast guesthouse last year. “There are more than 100 B&B-style guesthouses operating or planning to launch on the island.”
The growth in accommodations is part of Chongming’s efforts to boost tourism, which were strengthened last Thursday when Shanghai city government adopted the Chongming Whole Horizon Travel Development Plan, a blueprint for transforming the island into an eco-tourism destination by 2020.
Last year, an estimated 5.7 million visitors visited the island, spending 1.2 billion yuan (US$191 million). That was an 18 percent increase in numbers and a 10 percent rise in revenue.
By 2020, Shanghai expects the growth in the island’s tourism to contribute to 5 percent of Chongming’s gross domestic product.
The tourism blueprint calls the B&B-style guesthouses to be ranked from “good” to “excellent.”
On the middle of the island in Jianshe Village, a rural retreat called Gathering was designed by Chen Yuan, who hails from Fujian Province.
She visited many old houses in villages around China before working on her design for her lodging in Chongming in 2016.
“They have a close connection to nature,” Chen said of rural retreats.
Gathering is staffed by local villagers like Shen Huisun, its executive chef. He has been cooking village banquets on the island for more than 20 years, using local ingredients and traditional cooking styles. The retreat has set up an outdoor eating area near the river and offers a farm-to-table menu.
The surrounding fields are abundant in vegetable gardens, natural fishponds and native plants. The Gathering also allows visitors to watch lambs being fed and holds bonfire parties and outdoor movies. Workshops demonstrate organic cultivation, giving visitors the chance to make tomato juice and tangerine jam.
“Visitors here become ‘new villagers,’” said Chen. “They wake up to gentle sunlight and birdsong and fall asleep to the chorus of frogs.”
District chief Li Zheng said the area is making great strides in eco-tourism, including providing easy access to local scenic spots.
The effort is based on the twin strategies of “travel plus” and “plus travel.” The island is already brimming with plans to host the 10th China Flower Expo, a 100-day event to be held in 2021.
It’s all part of a plan called “1+3+X.” The “1” means the island’s 240-kilometer scenic coastline that encompasses its wetland area, an industrial park and an advanced agricultural area.
The “3” describes the scenic travel spots of Dongtan (Chenjia Town), Dongping (the Beihu area) and Xisha (the Mingzhu Lake area). Dongtan will feature a sports center and a conservation area for Chinese sturgeon. Dongping will host the flower expo in its National Forest Park in 2021.
“X” refers to special areas such as fishing spots on Changxing and Hengsha islands. A 50-hectare park in Chengqiao Town will feature facilities for football, basketball and tennis, a water-sports area for rowing, kayaking and dragon-boat racing. There will also be paths for jogging and cycling through the picturesque villages.
In Xincun Village, visitors can delight in the sweet scent of osmanthus, while Miaozhen Town features maple trees that turn a brilliant scarlet in autumn.
In spring, Zhongxing Town is awash with cherry blossoms, and the paths through Luhua Town follow the banks of a scenic lake and pass by tangerine orchards. Changxing Town features a four-season scenic area, complete with four bicycle rental stations.
By 2020, courts will be set up at Dongtan Wetland Park, the Dongping National Forest Park and the Xisha Mingzhu Lake scenic area to resolve tourists’ complaints and local disputes.
The Fun Chongming app will give online users information on tourism and ways to book hotels and pay for their lodgings.
Next month, two new bus lines will open to the Xisha Mingzhu Lake scenic area, Sanmin Cultural Village, Dongping National Forest Park and Lavender and Egret Love Park.