- MEDIA CENTER
In the county of Shiqian, impoverished villagers once used local hot springs to wash clothes and vegetables, but these days, the springs have washed away their poverty and brought in big bucks.
Shiqian is a small county located in Tongren city, Guizhou province. It is famous for its rich, high-quality hot springs.
In recent years, authorities have promoted the development of the local tourism sector, with a pair of hot springs serving collectively as a massive attraction, drawing flocks of visitors. Aside from the springs, the attraction includes ancient buildings, mountains, lakes, ethnic villages and a former revolutionary site.
Last year, the two hot spring sites received 1.14 million tourists and earned 193.3 million yuan ($29.7 million) in revenue, official statistics showed. In the first half of this year, one of the two sites had already attracted about 203,000 tourists, raking in 24.3 million yuan. "The hot springs truly transformed fortunes here," said Qin Huiming, a local official in charge of the sites.
Shiqian was named both "the hometown of hot springs in China" and "the hometown of mineral water in China" in 2009 by the China Mining Association.
There are many hot springs in the area, and they are known for their high quality, local officials said.
"There are 20 natural sites where hot springs flow, and eight artificial sites," Qin said.
However, the springs failed to generate large profits for the local people for a long time because of inadequate development.
"They were just used for washing," said Zhang Lulu, an employee at the tourist attraction. "Many villagers would bring along their children and buckets at night to the hot springs, and the children just took baths there."
Changes began to occur at the turn of the century.
In 2002, the local government brought in a company to expand the Chengnan Hot Springs, and the site was listed as a State-level scenic spot in 2015.
Also that year, the local government invested in the construction of Zhongba Hot Springs Town, which officially opened at the end of 2018.
The hot springs have directly benefited local economic development. For example, Chengnan and Zhongba combined generated about 800 jobs.
"It's good working here," said Mou Liangfeng, a room service employee at Zhongba. "There is no need for me to seek a job outside the county anymore, and my monthly salary is enough to cover my family's expenses."
Mou had previously worked in Fujian province and the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. After the hot springs town opened, however, she returned to Shiqian for employment.
The booming tourism sector led to the mushrooming of homestays and shops. Across the street from the Zhongba stand 11 new homestays and 15 shops selling swimsuits, trunks and swimming caps.
"All the homestays were established after the opening of the Zhongba project," said Zhu Dengming, owner of a nearby restaurant.
"In the past, villagers were my main customers, and I would not have business after 7 pm."
But now, things are changing as the number of tourists rises, Zhu said.
"Some visitors come for meals even in the middle of the night, and my annual profit has jumped to about 700,000 yuan, four times as much as before," he said.
Chen Shiyu, the owner of a swimsuit stall, said her business is soaring with the increasing number of tourists.
"My daily profit is about 600 yuan during peak seasons," she said.
Besides the hot springs hotels, the local government also invested in two mineral water plants, with one already in operation and churning out 300,000 metric tons of mineral water each year. The other plant has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons and is undergoing trial operations.
"People in Shiqian used to live hard lives, but now the hot springs have helped them turn a new page," Qin said.