High-speed rail brings tourism growth to isolated county in S. China

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Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County is located in the city of Liuzhou, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. /CFP

Tucked away in the northernmost part of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in south China, the ethnic county of Sanjiang was unknown to the outside world. Although some say “good wine needs no bush,” the lack of handy transportation in this mountainous area kept its natural charm and ethnic culture hidden for years and caused poverty. It wasn’t until 2014 when the high-speed railway was put into operation, that the county began to gain popularity as a tourist city and benefit from the thriving travel business.

The mention of Guangxi usually reminds Guilin travelers – the region’s best-known scenic spot that boasts picturesque views of karst mountains and rivers. The rising fame of Guilin has stimulated the growth in tourist arrivals, largely contributing to its economy in the past decades. However, before 2014, Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, though standing right beside Guilin, wasn’t able to benefit from the tourism industry due to poor transportation.

Guiyang-Guangzhou high-speed railway revitalizes isolated county

The Dong ethnic group in Sanjiang welcomed the launch of their first high-speed rail in December 2014 that has opened a new chapter for their lives. By linking the capitals of Guizhou Province and Guangdong Province, the Guiyang-Guangzhou high-speed train passes several economically poor but naturally rich regions of Guangxi, including Sanjiang.

Thanks to bullet trains, Sanjiang and Guilin’s journey, which used to take hours, is now shortened to half an hour. The trips from Sanjiang to other cities like Guiyang, Nanning, and Guangzhou are reduced to three hours.

Since then, changes have started to take place in this poor county as more visitors would like to pay a visit to the nearby Sanjiang after a tour around Guilin.

Dong ethnic group’s traditional banquet – “hundred family feast” is held in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, Liuzhou, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, September 18, 2020. /CFP

Local residents have since held hundreds of banquets to welcome tourists. Named the “hundred family feast,” it is Dong people’s ethnic tradition to entertain guests. Rows of tables are stuffed with a variety of local cuisine, waiting for people to try.

“Nowadays, more tourists from other provinces would visit here by bullet trains. Many people who left the village to work are now back,” a local villager surnamed Wu said.

The county received 3 million tourist arrivals in 2014, and that number jumped to 10 million in 2019. Accordingly, its annual tourism revenue soared from less than 2 billion yuan ($297 million) in 2014 to over 8 billion yuan in 2019, witnessing a huge boost that high-speed railway brings to the regional economy.
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