Faraway landscapes

By Xie Wenting in Urumqi Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/7 19:33:39

Guli Ablim, deputy director of the Xinjiang tourism bureau, had a heavy workload for the last few days as lots of new tourism projects kicked off in Xinjiang.

On August 5, she participated in a grand launching ceremony of China's first tour group visiting Kazakhstan in Urumqi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Now she is thinking how to better promote Xinjiang, an important hub along the Silk Road, to the rest of the world.

Occupying about one-sixth of China's total area, Xinjiang's landscape extends from grassland and lakes to high hills and basins.

With new tourism routes being developed and new policies introduced, deputy director Guli recently talked with the Global Times (GT) about the current situation and her expectations of Xinjiang tourism.

Guli Ablim, deputy director of the Xinjiang tourism bureau. Photo: Cui Meng/GT

GT: Xinjiang holds an important position on the Silk Road. What kind of methods you have adopted to attract tourists both inside and outside of China? Are these measures effective?

Guli: In order to attract both Chinese and foreign tourists, we have focused on two aspects.

The first is improving visibility through global publicity. We participate in the influential oversea tourism expos every year. Based on the actual situation in Xinjiang, we are offering special travel package discounts for some Muslim countries in Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

In China, we also attend the important tourism expos, including the Shanghai and Kunming expos. We also join the annual tourism expo organized by the China National Tourism Administration to appeal to the Hong Kong and Macao markets.

The second method is arousing the enthusiasm of tourism enterprises. We've released policies to reward tourism enterprises that organize tourists to charter the plane to visit Xinjiang and enterprises which succeed in bringing tourists to Xinjiang.

Through these measures, the result is promising. In the first half of 2016, Xinjiang hosted a total of about 27 million tourists, a 15 percent increase from the same period last year. Spending on tourism has reached about 35.8 billion yuan ($5.40 billion).

GT: What are the advantages that Xinjiang has in developing tourism?

Guli: The first advantage is our folk customs. There have been more than 10 ethnic minority groups inhabiting Xinjiang throughout history. The area is rich in folk customs and history. Besides, as Xinjiang stands along the ancient Silk Road, there are still many better-preserved ancient Silk Road sites.

The second advantage is abundant natural resources. Xinjiang makes up one sixth of the country's total land area. It has high mountains, basins, grassland, lakes and forests. This gives Xinjiang a unique edge in natural scenery and expeditionary tours where people drive themselves.

Xinjiang also borders eight countries including Mongolia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, which makes it stand out from other areas in border tourism.

GT: How many tourists did Xinjiang host in 2015 and 2016? What is the proportion of foreign tourists?

Guli: Xinjiang has received a total of 60.97 million tourists in 2015, with year-on-year growth of 23.1 percent. The number of inbound travelers is about 1.68 million, with year-on-year growth of 12.11 percent.

In the first half of 2016, Xinjiang received about 26.35 million Chinese tourists. There were also 720,830 inbound tourists, a 9.08 percent increase over the same period last year. The consumption of inbound tourism reached more than $215 million, with year-on-year growth of 17.39 percent.

GT: Could you introduce some new tourism products and routes to us?

Guli: We've accelerated the development of new tourism products based on travelers' needs. We've launched a series of new products and traveling lines.

One of the newly launched tourism products was the 2016 Xinjiang Spring Tourism Expo hosted in Turpan.

The second is that in the first half of this year, we launched "Ten Boutique Routes for Travelers Driving Themselves." They include three cross-border routes and seven other routes within Xinjiang. The three highly recommended routes include passing through the Tianshan Corridor as well as driving across the Pamir Mountains and encircling the Altai Mountains.

In July, we cooperated with six tourism agencies in Xinjiang to launch China's first group visit to Kazakhstan, which received very good feedback.

Fourth, together with the Xinjiang Railway we launched the "Touring Xinjiang on the Train" program.

Fifth, for the first time we have introduced the "Love Xinjiang, Tour Your Hometown" winter and spring tourism packages, aiming to achieve the balanced development of Xinjiang's tourism industry in all four seasons.

GT: What are the difficulties in carrying out tourism developing work?

Guli: The foremost difficulty that Xinjiang tourism faces is the high transportation cost. As mentioned before, Xinjiang occupies about one sixth of China's total land area and it is positioned on the northwest frontier of the country which is far away from the inland cities. So there is a long distance between the inland cities and Xinjiang and the trip among different scenic spots in Xinjiang is also very far. This greatly increases the transportation cost.

But still, Xinjiang tourism is on a steady development track. In the initial stage of the 12th Five-Year Plan, there were only five 5A (the highest rank for a tourist destination in China) scenic spots in Xinjiang. Now there are nine.

According to our plan, we expect to have 12 to 15 5A scenic spots during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).

Overall speaking, the tourism resources in Xinjiang are plentiful and they have huge potential for development. We are optimistic about the future.

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