Tourism Boosts Rural Revitalization in Ili
China Today (English)|August 2021
THEY say you never know how big China is until you come to Xinjiang, and never know how beautiful Xinjiang is until you come to Ili.
WANG BOWEN

Located in the Ili River Valley, west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture boasts the magnificent Tianshan Mountains, vast grasslands, blue lakes, and romantic flower fields, attracting tens of thousands of domestic and foreign visitors every year.

During recent years, relying on those natural resources and its own profound ethnic culture, Ili Kazak Prefecture has made great efforts to develop tourism, gradually locating itself on a road towards rural revitalization.

Lavender Fields

A strong lavender fragrance greets everyone who enters Sigong Village in Lucaogou Town, Huocheng County, Ili Valley. The spectacular purple fields of lavender undulate in the wind against the Tianshan Mountains in the distance.

It is hard to imagine that this sea of flowers was once a barren stony area. The thin, sandy soil does not absorb water, and as a result, conventional crops do not grow well. Ten years ago, after extensive research was carried out by officials of the Party committee of Lucaogou Town and Sigong Village, it was decided to grow lavender. As expected, the unique local climate and geographical environment are favorable for lavender seedlings, which grew exuberantly. Accordingly, processing plants were established, and byproducts like lavender essential oil, soap, and fragrance pillows are now rolling off local production lines.

The abundance of lavender blossoms inspired the Sigong Village officials with another good idea. They encouraged the villagers to transform their courtyards into homestays and develop tourism which integrates sightseeing with catering and accommodation. According to Li Zengjie, Party secretary of Lucaogou Town, the village’s per capita annual income has now reached RMB 22,000, and the number of homestays stands at 38, with more than 200,000 visitors recorded in 2019.

“Growing lavender has changed my family’s fortunes drastically. In the past, we didn’t even have a motorcycle, but now we have two cars,” said Ma Lingfei, a local villager prospering from the lavender business. He runs a plant which dries lavender blossoms, and in his home, there is a small lavender product exhibition hall. He now makes an annual income of more than RMB 300,000 via wholesale purchases on e-commerce platforms and tourists.

Now, for the deep integration between local agriculture and rural tourism, Sigong Village has been exploring a new model combining film/television production and tourism. According to Li Zengjie, Sigong is now applying to build the area into a film and television shooting base. Meanwhile, through conducting promotion activities on a variety of online platforms, it has become famous among tourists.

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