HAIKOU — Under the warm sunshine on pristine beaches, tourists happily indulge in the simple joys of collecting shells and catching crabs along the expansive coastline.
This idyllic scene is becoming increasingly common in Dongying township, nestled in Lingao county, Hainan province. Here, visitors flock to immerse themselves in an authentic fisherman's life, a rare experience blending leisure with a local tradition.
Dongying was recently recognized as a "Cittaslow" at the Cittaslow International Coordination Committee meeting held in Seferihisar, Turkiye — the 14th town and the first coastal city in China to obtain this honor.
Cittaslow, or International Slow Town status, is based on a novel urban development plan that was put forth in Italy. This model emphasizes the need to find a way to construct modern communities that integrate traditional lifestyles with modern technology. There were 295 Cittaslow cities or towns spread across 33 countries and regions as of October.
"The connotation of Cittaslow coincides with China's new development concept and rural vitalization," said Tang Shoubing, head of Lingao county.
Thanks to the area's geographical advantages and natural resources, the Lingao government has promoted green industries such as seaside homestays, and leisurely sports and culture activities.
Dongying has a coastline of about 15 kilometers, and a wide area of the seabed is often exposed at low tide, which makes it easy to collect conches, crabs and shells.
Chen Xiaojie, a villager from Dongying's Bozong village, returned to his hometown in 2017 to set up a coastal inn, and business proved surprisingly good.
Since then, more than 10 seaside homestays and 10 new restaurants have sprung up around Bozong, which have led to the employment of over 100 people.
Capitalizing on its coastal resources, Dongying has pooled 106 million yuan ($14.9 million) in funds to initiate the Dongying coastal Cittaslow project. Additionally, it has invested 234 million yuan in enhancing local tourism, focusing on developing coastal inns, bookstores and various attractions to enrich the visitor experience.
Seeing the rapid development of their hometown, more young people are returning to the village to start businesses.
Chen Wanbo from Hexin village founded a farmstay and an agricultural cooperative, where people can have an authentic farm experience while learning about agriculture and fishing culture. Chen said visitors can enjoy a trip featuring "rich local flavors" loaded with activities and cultural elements.
Dongying has received over 80,000 visitors so far this year. Homestay bookings for the 2024 Spring Festival are already filling up. "We expect the close connection between Dongying town, a coastal fishing town, and the Cittaslow concept to make Dongying a model for Hainan's construction of rural vitalization so that more local people can benefit from it," Tang said.