Xin­jiang be­comes play­ground for 30 mil­lion win­ter vis­i­tors

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - PHO­TOS BY JIN WEI / FOR CHINA DAILY, DENG JIAPING / FOR CHINA DAILY, ZHAO GE / XIN­HUA AND HE ZHONG / FOR CHINA DAILY By MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi and ZHAO XINYING in Bei­jing

More than 30 mil­lion tourists are ex­pected in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­tonomous re­gion this win­ter, be­tween Novem­ber and April, of­fi­cials pre­dict. The win­ter vis­i­tors, drawn to the re­gion’s snow-capped scenery and di­verse cul­tural attractions, are ex­pected to spend about 18 bil­lion yuan ($2.6 bil­lion).

Win­ter is be­com­ing a pop­u­lar time to visit Xin­jiang, which bor­ders Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan, Afghanistan and other coun­tries. The sea­son can last for five months or more, ac­cord­ing to Gul Ablim, deputy di­rec­tor of the re­gion’s tourism ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The length of the sea­son sup­ports a lot of ski re­sorts in the val­leys of the Tian­shan Moun­tains’ north­ern slopes.

“In ad­di­tion, win­ter in Xin­jiang is milder than that in North­east China, which means it’s suited to a wider range of ages and dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal con­di­tions,” she said.

Chen Hong jin, gen­eral man­ager of the do­mes­tic trip depart­ment at lead­ing Chi­nese on­line travel agency lv­mama.com, rec­om­mended win­ter tourists visit re­sorts like Tianchi Lake near the Tian­shan Moun­tains and Kanas Lake in north­ern Xin­jiang’s Al­tay pre­fec­ture.

In ad­di­tion to Xin­jiang’s ge­o­graphic and cli­matic ad­van­tages, Chen said its deserts, an­cient Silk Road relics and the mix of eth­nic groups such as Uygur, Hui and Kazak add to its attractions.

“Many peo­ple know that trav­el­ing to Xin­jiang in sum­mer is won­der­ful, while ig­nor­ing the fact that the re­gion is equally worth visit­ing in win­ter,” he said.

“Whether ski­ing or ad­mir­ing the spec­tac­u­lar snow­cov­ered land­scapes, what­ever ac­tiv­i­ties tourists take part in, I bet they will be fas­ci­nated by the amaz­ing scenery and cul­tural events — the likes of which they’ ll have never seen be­fore.”

To make full use of the re­gion’s re­sources, Gul Ablim said her of­fice has been work­ing to pro­mote win­ter tourism over the past decade. A win­ter tourism in­dus­try ex­po­si­tion was launched in the re­gion in 2006, be­com­ing a na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion and fair in 2012.

Host­ing China’s 13th Na­tional Win­ter Games, which were held in Xin­jiang from Jan 20 to 30, pro­vided a fur­ther boost with the surge in tourists around the time of the event.

As of late March, Xin­jiang had wel­comed 100,000 more tourists visit­ing in groups than it did the pre­vi­ous win­ter, rep­re­sent­ing a year-onyear in­crease of 123 per­cent.

Jan­uary alone saw more than 92,000 tourists from over­seas visit­ing Xin­jiang, while 77,000 came in Fe­bru­ary and 105,000 in March.

Nevenka Gir­van, a re­tired busi­ness­woman from Aus­tralia who has trav­eled to Xin­jiang in both sum­mer and win­ter, said she en­joyed the colder months for the clean air, beau­ti­ful scenery and the in­ter­est­ing mix of win­ter ac­tiv­i­ties such as rid­ing in a horse-drawn sleigh, sled­ding and horse rac­ing on ice.

The 65-year-old said she has found Xin­jiang’s win­ters to be quite mild, with plenty to keep her oc­cu­pied.

To bet­ter ex­ploit Xin­jiang’s po­ten­tial as a ma­jor des­ti­na­tion for win­ter trips and at­tract more tourists from both China and abroad, Gul Ablim said the au­tonomous re­gion is work­ing to draft pref­er­en­tial poli­cies and speed up con­struc­tion of travel fa­cil­i­ties.

“Places suitable for win­ter trips in north­ern Xin­jiang — such as in Ili Kazak au­tonomous pre­fec­ture, Al­tay pre­fec­ture and Chang ji Hui au­tonomous pre­fec­ture — are building ski re­sorts,” she said.

Clock­wise from top left: Mu­si­cians play an an­cient Uygur in­stru­ment in Kash­gar pre­fec­ture. A for­eign tourist chats with a res­i­dent of an an­cient town in Kash­gar. Chil­dren play on a sled at a scenic spot in Kanas, Al­tay pre­fec­ture. Win­ter scene in Al­tay.

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