Gi­ant tele­scope pro­vides path to fun, profit

Po­ten­tial rev­enues seen in tourism: Vis­i­tors wel­come, but not cell­phones

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By YANG JUN in Ping­tang, Guizhou and CHEN­MENG­WEI in Bei­jing Con­tact the writ­ers at chen­meng­wei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

As the world’s largest sin­glera­dio tele­scope for scan­ning the uni­verse — China’s FAST — made its de­but on Sun­day, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment rolled out its own grand vi­sion for high­end tourism. It takes the form of tourism, with ticket prices as high as 668 yuan ($100).

Per­haps the bet­ter news is that, startin­gonMon­day, a trial run at the scenic spot will be­gin at a dis­counted price of 368 yuan­per per­son, al­most50per­cent off, ac­cord­ing to the tourism bureau of Ping­tang county, Guizhou prov­ince, where the Five-hun­dred-me­ter Aper­ture Spher­i­cal Tele­scope sits. As many as 2,000 peo­ple can visit the site each day.

The ticket is­more­like anall­day pass that gives tourists ac­cess to most spots re­lated to the gi­ant tele­scope, in­clud­ing a 2,700-square-me­ter vis­i­tor’s stand over­look­ing the in­stal­la­tion, which is the size of 30 soc­cer fields. There’s also an as­tron­omy-themed mu­seum and a cul­tural park. The FAST it­self is not open to the pub­lic. Shut­tles within the vis­i­tors’ zone are free.

Go­ing into the zone gives vis­i­tors aday of re­li­ef­fromthe ball and chain of the in­ter­net in an era where ev­ery­body is con­nected to ev­ery­body by mo­bile phone, like it or not. The gi­gan­tic yet del­i­cate ra­dio tele­scope tol­er­ates zero dis­tur­bance­from cel­lu­lar ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to Peng Bo, deputy man­ager of the FAST project. Hence the gover­nor of Guizhou signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in 2013 for­bid­ding the use of any elec­tronic de­vices within 5 kilo­me­ters of the tele­scope.

Vis­i­tors are re­quired to de­posit all dig­i­tal de­vices, in­clud­ing cell­phones and dig­i­tal cam­eras, in lock­ers be­fore go­ing into the sig­nal-free zone.

Con­ven­tional film cam­eras are al­lowed, for those who want to take pic­tures. And if a per­son re­ally needs to make a phone call, sev­eral free land­lines can be found at the vis­i­tors’ stand and tourist cen­ter.

The hot­pot-shaped FAST and the high-al­ti­tude nat­u­ral basin in which it rests have jointly “cre­ated a rare scenic spot that per­fectly com­bines mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and ge­ol­ogy, which is an un­par­al­leled tourism re­source that will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the de­vel­op­ment of Guizhou’s tourism in­dus­try”, the Ping­tang tourism bureau said on its of­fi­cial web­site.

TheUnited States’ 305-me­ter Arecibo Ob­ser­va­tory in Puerto Rico at­tracts about 130,000 tourists ev­ery year, bring­ing in more than $50 mil­lion an­nu­ally, a re­port in The Pa­per said.

Li Yongzhong, 61, a retired mid­dle school teacher, said: “I think the tele­scope will be ben­e­fi­cial to all Chi­nese and even peo­ple from all over the world. Here we get our in­come mainly from agri­cul­ture, and there are al­most no other in­dus­tries. I think it will bring a lot of tourists from other re­gions of the county and even from for­eign coun­tries that will in­crease peo­ple’s in­come.”

Yang Shenghu, 31, a farmer, said: “There have been big changes in trans­porta­tion con­di­tions here. It’s quite some­thing and brings pres­tige in talk­ing with out­siders. I ex­pect to find a job in town in­stead of leav­ingmy home­town.” Hou Liqiang con­trib­uted to this story.

HOU LIQIANG / CHINA DAILY

A news reporter takes a selfie at the tele­scope site in Ping­tang, Guizhou prov­ince, on Satur­day. The scenic spot will open to vis­i­tors on Mon­day.

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