Stability benefits Xinjiang tourism, business

By Liu Xin and Fan Lingzhi in Aksu Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/24 18:53:40

Aksu Prefecture attracts bigger events from improving security

Villagers use mobile stalls to sell food, beverage and other products in Tagelake village, Wensu county, Aksu. Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT

The simultaneous kickoff of the cultural and tourism festival and the 2019 Taklimakan Rally in Jinlan square of Aksu Prefecture, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been a boon to Adili Reheman's (pseudonym) business. 

Adili sold handmade scarves, souvenirs and wine, which is made from grape in a traditional local way, in a stand near Jinlan square. Before the opening ceremonies, he could only make 200 yuan ($29) a day, but he made more than 1,000 yuan on the opening day. 

Adili said he opens a temporary stand at big events, and also has a shop near the airport, which sells special local products.

"I can earn more than 50,000 yuan a year compared to 10,000 yuan three years ago," he told the Global Times.

While Adili was busy doing business near Jinlan square, more than a hundred racing drivers were waiting for the start of the 2019 Taklimakan Rally. 

The increasing income of Adili and the lively scenes of the Taklimakan Rally were the culmination of the gradually booming tourism industry in Aksu and in southern Xinjiang, an area once plagued by terrorism and extremism.

An aerial view of part of the 2019 Taklimakan Rally, the largest, longest and most difficult car race in Asia. This year's race started in Aksu, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on May 19. Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT


Two drivers share a light moment before the Taklimakan Rally on May 20. Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT

Open to the world

This year's Taklimakan Rally, the largest, longest and most difficult car rally in Asia, started in Aksu on May 19. Drivers from 58 teams will navigate through nine stages covering 5,000 kilometers, passing Gobi deserts and Danxia landform areas before finishing in Hotan.

"Drivers and co-drivers need to pass through the Taklimakan Desert, enduring the high temperature and rocky roads. They also need to deal with emergencies. Even a small screw spike could influence their performance," Sun Kai, a member of the RAOIL Team, told the Global Times. 

Song Chuan, a senior counselor of the Taklimakan Rally, who has been working for the rally for 10 years, told the Global Times that "The landforms in Aksu - deserts, Gobi, riverbed, and canyon land - are perfect to hold a car rally. There are many depopulated zones where the racing stages could pass."

"Xinjiang is a place like heaven, and holding a car rally here fits many drives' dreams of being tested by the extremes to pursue a hero dream," Song said.   

Song said that the rally could help boost Aksu's tourism.

The race is only one part of Aksu's tourism development. The local government has organized nine events, including a cultural and tourism festival, food fair, local products fair and public welfare program for students to promote local tourism, according to a release from Aksu's publicity department.

"We want to combine culture and sports events, and tours in scenic spots to repackage the image of the place," Chang Yuxuan, head of the Party committee in Aksu, told the Global Times.

An aerial view of a scenic spot in Tagelake village of Wensu county in Aksu. Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT

Stable for development

Data from the publicity department shows the prefecture received nearly 2.84 million trips in the first four months of 2019, an increase of 46.7 percent from the same period in 2018, which brought in 1.65 billion yuan in tourist revenue. More than 9.75 million trips are expected in 2019 with total revenue expected to reach 5.6 billion yuan.

The surge in tourist number in Aksu and other places in Xinjiang is one of the benefits of a stable social environment, Zhang Hui, vice president of Duolang and Qiuci Tourism Development Ltd, told the Global Times. 

Many residents and officials share Zhang's opinion. 

Luo Yansen, 38, is the head of a civil rescue team in Alar, a city near Aksu. He and his team came to Aksu to work as volunteers for the 2019 Taklimakan Rally.

"The rally has been held in Xinjiang several times but this was the largest ever," Luo told the Global Times, noting that no big events were held years ago when the security situation "was not that good" in Xinjiang. 

Luo used to run a hotel in Alar from 2009 to 2012. But the situation was so bad that he had to close the hotel.

"The security situation has improved in recent years and we have seen more big events in Xinjiang. I told many friends outside Xinjiang concerned about security that they can walk with a million in cash in their pocket without worrying about their safety here," Luo said.

Many places, especially the southern parts of Xinjiang had been suffering from terrorism and extremism for a long time, which greatly affected local residents' safety, property and social development, according to a White Paper on The Fight Against Terrorism and Extremism and Human Rights Protection in Xinjiang, which was released by the State Council Information Office.

Xinjiang has taken various measures to fight terrorism and extremism in recent years and there have been no violent attacks in the region for more than two years, according to Xinjiang officials reached by the Global Times.  

Christian Zweifei from Germany and Simon Ton from Singapore came to Aksu for the first time and were impressed by the security situation.

They work for a German company producing lubricating oil, which sponsored the RZOIL Team for the 2019 Taklimakan Rally. They came to the rally to test their products as well as to cheer the team.

Zweifei told the Global Times that before coming to Xinjiang, his friends in Germany told him "it is not a safe place," but the situation is quite the opposite. He saw police officers patrol the streets.

Ton said that what he saw in Aksu "was different from what he read from the news" and local residents of different ethnic groups are friendly and live normal lives. 

Talking about the stable social environment, Sun said that the Dakar Rally used to be moved to South America from Africa due to the threat of terrorism in Africa. "But this would never happen in Xinjiang," Sun said.

Aside from holding big events, stable situation and tourism developments in Xinjiang have also brought benefits to local residents.

"People now feel safe to go square dancing every day or join some events. Local residents' horizons have broadened and their lives are enriched with more big events being held here," Luo said.

Luo hopes to reopen his hotel one day.

A local village sells grilled meat in Tagelake village, Wensu county, Aksu, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Photo: Yang Ruoyu/GT

Better plan for better future

With the stable environment and the promising development of tourism, Aksu is working to better manage local tourism resources and encouraging more residents to take part.

Tagelake village in Wensu county is located in a rangeland in a mountainous area. The long stretch of grassland and the view of the mountain snow far away make it a scenic spot. The good tourism season lasts from May to September.

To integrate the tourism resources, the village has set up a cooperative to encourage residents with yurts, horses and rangeland to join, Liu Xiang, head of the working team stationed in Tagelake, told the Global Times.

Liu said the village worked with tourism companies to make plans for tourism development. "We plan to plant different flowers at different months to attract tourists, and divide the scenic spot into a horse-riding area, an entertainment area and a section for agritainment, and to bring in more animals like yaks," Liu said.

To improve the services in the scenic spot, the village has invited experts from the restaurant and catering association of Aksu to train local villagers, according to Liu.

He added that developing local tourism relies on changing people's minds and this is the reason why the village is organizing different training for free for villagers.

Takelage village received more than 100,000 visits in 2018 and is expected to welcome more tourists this year, as Liu said that more than 5,000 tourists came to the spot in the first week of May, which was not the prime season.

The average yearly income of villagers in Takelage also increased in recent years from 3,000 yuan to 9,000 yuan in 2018.

"Xinjiang is a very beautiful place with friendly people. We welcome more tourists to see the development here with their own eyes," Liu said.

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