Tourism in a scenic part of the ancient city of Dali, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province, has picked up this summer in the wake of a local government cleanup campaign.
The town of Shuanglang, a popular destination on the shore of Erhai Lake, now attracts about 15,000 tourists a day, with nearly 12,000 staying in local hotels and guesthouses.
In the first half of this year, Dali Bai autonomous prefecture drew 25.9 million tourists, up 6 percent year-on-year, with an estimated tourism revenue of 45 billion yuan ($6.4 billion). The prefecture attracted more than 47 million visitors last year, reaping more than 79.5 billion yuan in tourism revenue.
It has strengthened ecological protection in recent years and encouraged the tourism industry to improve the quality of its offerings after rapid expansion that began a decade ago resulted in problems such as pollution and a disorderly market.
Erhai Lake used to attract tens of thousands of visitors a day, but wastewater and garbage were often discharged directly into the lake due to insufficient facilities, causing long-lasting pollution problems.
The city government launched a campaign in March 2017 to protect the ecology of the Erhai Lake basin and regulate its tourism market. All catering, hotel and guesthouse businesses in the core area of the Erhai Lake conservation zone were shut down until the authorities confirmed they had all the required permits and a sewage pipeline running around the lake was completed.
In the past 10 months, nearly 2,000 buildings, including some guesthouses and restaurants inside the conservation zone, have been demolished.
Shuanglang started its transformation in June 2016, seeking to eliminate practices such as unauthorized sewage discharges, unapproved construction, encroachment on public spaces – including streets – and operating hotels or catering businesses without licenses.
About 500 million yuan of investments from local government and private sources has been used to upgrade the town’s sewage treatment capacity, traffic and power infrastructure and tourist services. Parking lots for over 3,000 vehicles have been built, streets have been revamped, with street lamps installed, and historical and cultural elements of the town have been emphasized, the Shuanglang town scenic area management committee said.
The town had 1,600 licensed commercial businesses before the city government campaign was launched in 2017. In the past 12 months, 325 hotels and 156 restaurants have reopened in the core area of Erhai Lake.
Another 102 hotels and 45 restaurants have until the end of this month to upgrade their businesses. If they fail to do so, they will not be allowed to reopen.
The town’s sewage treatment capacity means no more than 18,000 people should be allowed to stay in Shuanglang each night, it said.
Because of that, the number of businesses in the core zone is expected to fall in the future.