Experience-based rural getaways let city folk shake off their daily pressures, drive growth
With experience-based industrial tourism booming, Majiawan village in Shizuishan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, is setting a good example of realizing the goal of rural xiaokang, or moderate prosperity.
The tiny village, with a total area of 6.25 square kilometers, is home to 375 families, or 1,185 residents.
In just four years, the village's annual collective income achieved a more than tenfold increase.
Wang Zhanbing, village Party chief, said: "In 2018, we established a tourism area in the village. Taking advantage of experience-based industrial tourism, Majiawan has achieved a quantum leap in economic development."
The tourism location, Daditianxiang Scenic Area, is a grade three-A tourism destination. With an investment of 43.36 million yuan ($6.05 million), it includes a rose-processing industrial park, farmhouses, an agricultural product processing industrial zone and other related facilities. Currently, the annual revenue of the tourism area stands at around 11 million yuan, creating around 5,000 jobs every year.
Du Xiaoli is a sales manager at Ningxia Jiahe Floral Ecological Agricultural Co Ltd in the Daditianxiang Scenic Area. She said that the rose facility, established by the company, attracts over 100,000 visitors every year.
"Tourists living nearby, including in Yinchuan, Wuzhong and Qingtongxia, visit our rose-processing plant during weekends and festivals. They gather roses, bake rose flower cakes and make rose floral water and rose jam. Both adults and kids enjoy themselves a lot," Du said.
Specifically, she said baking rose flower cakes is the most popular experience-based tour program in the rose industrial park.
"It's a form of entertainment for both children and adults. We invite tutors to teach visitors how to bake rose flower cakes. People enjoy themselves during the process. After the classes, they are able to take their rose flower cakes back home," Du added.
According to the company, which was founded in 2017, the current plantation base has reached 1,600 mu (106.67 hectares), and its annual output value stands at 12 million yuan. It has developed into a green food production company integrating rose plantation, processing, science research and leisure tourism.
Yue Pengxiu, founder and chairman of Shizuishan Rural Food Co Ltd, established a rural vinegar culture sightseeing zone within Daditianxiang Scenic Area. Yue said that the vinegar culture sightseeing zone illustrates the craft of vinegar making, and demonstrates vinegar culture as a local intangible heritage.
"Many of our visitors noted that they and their families had consumed vinegar for generations. But none of them were aware of how vinegar is made, and the differences between vinegar and soy sauce. Now, the country is encouraging the public to carry forward intangible culture. After visiting our vinegar culture sightseeing zone, tourists think the craft of vinegar making is an eye-opener, and have gained a deeper understanding of traditional vinegar brewing," Yue said.
The company said the sightseeing zone was opened to the public in 2021. Currently, annual visits stand at around 20,000, and revenue has been climbing.
Apart from selling products and experiences to visitors, Majiawan is also benefiting from overseas business. Lirong Biotechnology Co Ltd is a local company specializing in producing dried vegetables. Their products mainly include local specialties, such as dried spinach, celery, leeks, tomatoes and olives.
Sun Lirong, chairman of Lirong Biotech, said: "We started exporting dried vegetables to the United States, Europe and Japan twenty years ago. Ningxia experiences little rainfall and has a large temperature difference between day and night, which makes it ideal for the production of vegetables. Specifically, owing to challenges brought by the pandemic and geopolitical conflict, the market potential for dried vegetables is huge. People are showing increasing demand for instant vegetables, with an estimated market of $3.5 billion globally every year. Our company contributes $70 million to this market annually."
As part of Majiawan's experience-based industrial tourism, Lirong Biotech has established a science popularization education base, where youngsters pay visits and learn about how to turn vegetable seeds into packaged dried vegetables.
"Differing from traditional tourism, experience-based industrial tourism focuses on offering visitors unique hands-on experiences. During visits, they get to know how crops grow, children learn to identify various types of vegetables, and everyone learns about the process of making dried foodstuffs," Sun said.
After tasting the sweetness of roses, the fragrance of vinegar, as well as the flavors of dried vegetables, visitors to Majiawan may then visit local farmhouses, where hospitable owners invite visitors to their gardens to pick organic fruits and vegetables.
Afterward, visitors may choose to spend a night or two in farmhouses and enjoy homemade meals like roast mutton kebabs. The nature-centric fun makes them forget about the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Market insiders said that experience-based tourism is a new sector that combines features from agricultural, industrial and service economies. It provides tourists with participatory and experiential activities to immerse them in their rural adventure.
With the booming of experience-based businesses, tourists increasingly seek more diversified and memorable activities, and there is increasing demand for such experiences. Consumers are no longer satisfied with popular tourism products, but are more eager to pursue personalized, experiential, emotional, leisurely and beautified tourism experiences, experts said.
Wu Gangliang, a researcher at the China Enterprise Reform and Development Society in Beijing, said: "Experience-based industrial tourism, combining industry and tourism, improves consumers' sense of experience, enhances brand image, and builds a whole industrial chain. It is an effective way of promoting rural vitalization."
In 2021, the total income of Majiawan village surpassed 20 million yuan. Experience-based industrial tourism has become a "magic solution" for the village's economic development.
Liu Cui, deputy head of the culture, tourism, radio and television bureau of Huinong district, Shizuishan, said: "Taking advantage of regional culture and local intangible heritage, Majiawan has experienced rapid economic development in recent years. Currently, average annual incomes of villagers stand at around 15,000 yuan, among which 5,000 yuan is generated from the local tourism industry. This new-type tourism enhances tourists' sense of experience, protects and passes on traditional Chinese culture, effectively stimulates the vitality of Majiawan and improves the popularity of the village's tourism culture.
"In the next step, we will further take advantage of local resources and the ecological environment to explore the connotation of rural culture, and bring more rural tourism products with diverse forms and distinctive features to visitors."