Across China: Ice and snow invigorate rural economy in Heilongjiang
HARBIN, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — The first autumn snow arrived a little early this year in Yabuli Town, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, and it was obviously good news for Zhang Lihua, who runs a local homestay there.
“The colder the weather turns, the better our business will become,” said Zhang, a farmer in Daqingshan Village in Yabuli. She works in the farmlands in summer and provides catering and accommodation services for tourists in winter.
Located some 200 km away from the provincial capital Harbin, the town is now famous for the Yabuli Ski Resort, which has more than 50 ski trails and a maximum snow-covering period of 170 days every year.
Ice and snow tourism here began more than a decade ago. “Farmers usually had no work to do in winter, but now they are busier and can earn more because of the development of tourism,” Zhang said.
Like others who run homestays there, Zhang has been busy introducing Yabuli to visitors through social media and preparing supplies and food for the winter business. Zhang dries some wild vegetables and mushrooms every year, as these local foods are especially popular with tourists.
In order to develop the ice and snow industry, the local government encouraged farmers to participate in this business. In addition to those who run homestays and restaurants, some farmers became tour guides or ski instructors.
“I got an interest-free loan of 50,000 yuan (6,840 U.S. dollars) from the government, and with the help of my relatives and friends, I started my homestay,” Zhang said. She added that over the years her catering capacity has developed from four tables in the beginning to 20 tables at this moment.
Zhang said that in order to improve quality of service, she learned business management skills, carefully designed the dining area, and has been constantly improving the taste of dishes served at her homestay.
Shan Honghai is a farmer and runs a restaurant in Daqingshan Village, Yabuli Town. Speaking about the changes over the years, Shan said his family had purchased two more cars and also bought a house in the town.
“Some tourists who come here by train often need a pick-up service. To meet their demands, I applied for a driver’s license and became a driver as well,” Shan said.
The ice and snow economy has effectively boosted farmers’ employment and entrepreneurship options, and revitalized the rural economy, said Zhen Li, a government employee in Yabuli Town.
“In the past, transportation was difficult, especially in winter, and we were worried when it snowed,” Zhang said. “Now snow is a bliss as it can attract tourists, and we are happy to see snow.”
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