Restrooms with a number of themes, such as granaries and bars, have been built or renovated at Yashan Mountain scenic spot in southwest Jiangxi province. Photo By Zhang Wei / China Daily
Improvements to rural facilities are aimed at improving health standards, boosting tourism and raising incomes, as Cheng Si reports.
China's "toilet revolution" has moved up a gear with the news that the emphasis will shift from management of restrooms at tourist attractions to improving conditions in facilities in rural areas via the use of technology, said Li Jinzao, vice-minister of culture and tourism.
However, he stressed that providing visitors with the best travel experiences will remain a priority and the quality of tourist restrooms will be an important factor when attractions, resorts and hotels are assessed and rated.
The campaign to improve China's toilets, which highlights modern standards of hygiene and cleanliness, was launched in 2015 by the China National Tourism Administration, which was merged into the newly established Ministry of Culture and Tourism this month.
More than 24,000 restrooms designed to high sanitary standards will be built this year, according to a three-year plan released by the administration in December that will see about 60,000 restrooms built or renovated by the end of 2020. More than 87,000 newly built or renovated restrooms have opened at tourist attractions in the past three years.
Since the campaign began, it has received more than 1 billion yuan ($160 million) from the Ministry of Finance, while provincial authorities and businesses have invested more than 20 billion yuan.
Li, who was the head of then National Tourism Administration, said that while renovation of the sanitation infrastructure may seem negligible to individuals, the campaign addresses fundamental issues for visitors and will have a beneficial impact on people's health across the country.
Moreover, improvements in rural sanitation will also boost tourism and raise incomes for impoverished villagers.
Poor management of sanitary facilities has long been an obstacle to the development of tourism, both urban and rural, and the improvement of public services according to Li.
In recent decades, tourism has made a huge contribution to China's economic development, but a lack of modern management techniques and poor infrastructure, especially low sanitary standards, have resulted in the sector failing to meet visitors' requirements.
The ministry estimates that tourists paid more than 40 billion visits to restrooms at travel destinations last year.
"It's a huge number, so we require more facilities and high-quality services," Li said. To improve the situation, the ministry plans to raise the number of facilities and introduce unisex and family restrooms at tourist spots.
"The ratio of toilet stalls for males and females will be increased from 1-to-1 to 2-to-3, while in some popular travel destinations the ratio will be 1-to-2. Nearly 250 5A State-level scenic spots (the highest level and best maintained) will be fitted with family and unisex restrooms to offer convenience to seniors and people with disabilities," Li said.
Inappropriate behavior plus poor management of facilities and the technologies used in the renovation process remain problems that require action from individuals, companies and the government, according to the vice-minister.
"Uncivilized behavior, such as cutting in line, wasting water and toilet paper, and deliberately damaging facilities, cannot be changed in a short time," he said. "More creative and efficient promotional methods and tools, such as Weibo and WeChat, should be used to improve people's behavior."
On Jan 5, the ministry and Amap, the provider of one of China's most popular navigation services, launched a "toilet navigation system" on the company's mobile app which allows users to quickly locate restrooms within a radius of 2 kilometers.
By early last month, nearly 15 million people had used the service, according to Amap, which emphasized that an effective sanitation system is not only closely linked with environmental protection, but also with standards of health and quality of life.