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Township in S China’s Hainan sees tourism boom after forging ties with aerospace projects

Longlou township in Wenchang, south China’s Hainan province, has enjoyed a boom in tourism and great changes in people’s lives after a spacecraft launch site was located in the locality.

In recent years, Wenchang has constantly tapped into its ties with China’s aerospace projects following the construction of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Longlou township, initiating a great number of supporting projects and relevant projects designed to benefit the people.

The construction and completion of a series of aerospace-themed projects, such as community, park, and science center, have not only facilitated the construction of the national project, but speeded up the growth of local economy and society.

Located at a corner of Wenchang, Longlou township used to be a small township with less than 30,000 people.

Villages of the township were hidden in dense jungles and bushes, and the dilapidated streets of the township had neither thriving businesses nor many visitors, not to mention the limited sources of income of local residents.

Since the construction of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site started in 2009, Wenchang has made efforts to transform Longlou into a special aerospace-themed township.

Thanks to the efforts, local-style dwellings with carved gray tiles, arched doors and corridors have been integrated ingeniously with aerospace elements, giving the small town unique charm.

Great changes in Longlou township have led to the prosperity of various industries.

After its transformation, Longlou township has drawn increasing attention of investors, which were followed by the opening of a great number of inns, hotels, electrical appliance and furniture malls with the word “aerospace” literally in their names.

By the year 2019, the number of shops in Longlou township had surged from 230 to more than 900, while the number of hotels and inns in the township had risen from 5 to 46 and the number of large supermarkets and business centers had reached 13. More than 5,000 jobs had been created, thanks to these businesses.

From 2009 to 2019, the town’s GDP rose by 23.6 times, and the income of rural residents secured an annual increase of 19.7 percent.

When the Long March-5 Y3 carrier rocket was launched in the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in December 2019, about 170,000 tourists flocked to Longlou township to witness the special moment.

On July 23, 2020, nearly 200,000 visitors came to the site for the launching of Tianwen-1, China’s first mission to Mars. The inns, hotels and restaurants in Longlou township were packed with tourists.

Hotel rooms were fully booked for the launching day one month before the event, and many customers reserved rooms for three consecutive days, said Wang Anxing, director of operations of a hotel in Longlou township, who added that the hotel even rented out its 400-square-meter cafe to meet the demands of customers.

The “space craze” has greatly stimulated the tourism industry in Wenchang. In 2019, the city witnessed a total tourism revenue of about 1.97 billion yuan ($290 million), a year-on-year increase of 26.1 percent.

During the construction of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, the city relocated more than 3,000 farmers to resettlement sites with spacious and comfortable houses, and helped 138 poverty-stricken residents secure employment or start their own businesses in the locality, ensuring that their living standards and quality of life improve steadily.

Under the encouragement and guidance of the local government, many residents have grasped the opportunities generated by the construction of the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site and started to earn living by running restaurants, teahouses and shops in Longlou township.

The hotel that Wang works for is the first large hotel in Longlou township. Wang, who is a 35-year-old local resident of Longlou township, used to work in large cities of Hainan like Sanya.

“When I worked in big cities, I could earn about several thousand yuan at most per month,” Wang said, adding that he had often been confused about his career when he worked in those big cities.

After returning to his hometown and finding a job in the hotel, Wang gradually mapped out his career. The man said he never wants to leave his hometown and work in strange cities again.

Wang is now on a steady income of over 90,000 yuan every year at the hotel. At his leisure, he also helps run a teahouse that his family opened in the town.

Chen Manli, owner of a restaurant in Longlou township, received 30 tables of customers on July 23, the day when Tianwen-1 was launched. According to Chen, still many visitors came to her restaurant the next day.

Chen is a resident in Chitu village of Longlou township. After she was relocated from the village, she first opened a roadside diner with her husband to sell duck soup.

They have developed the diner into a large food court selling special dishes of Wenchang, including a course containing clams, lobsters, abalones, and sea urchins. The authentic local cuisine has made her restaurant increasingly popular among consumers.

With the gradual improvement in the infrastructure of Wenchang, especially the construction of Qinglan Bridge, Haiwen Bridge and a 99-kilometer-long tourism highway that connects the two bridges, it has become easier for residents in Wenchang to get around.

In the past, it took at least one to two hours for people to travel from Dongjiao township of the city to Wencheng township in downtown Wenchang by ferry or boat. On windy days or evenings, the boat would usually be just cancelled.

Such inconvenience was finally ended in 2012, when Qinglan Bridge was completed and opened to traffic.

Over 400 years ago, a devastating earthquake separated Puqian township of Wenchang and the adjacent city Haikou, capital city of Hainan province, with the sea and made Puqian a relatively isolated area.

It was until 2019 when Haiwen Bridge was built that Puqian township was once again connected with Haikou.

The two bridges and the highway have served as the backbone of Wenchang’s transportation and infused strong impetus into the development of the city.

The city is now making great efforts to promote the construction of Wenchang International Aerospace City, a major project of China and Hainan province.

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