China's vast western regions are becoming a new growth engine for the nation's tourism industry as travel demand from the Chinese people keeps rising with improving living standards, according to the country's tourism authority.
Data from the National Tourism Administration (NTA) show that domestic travels numbered almost 1.4 billion in the first half of this year, representing a rise of 14.7 percent year-on-year.
The increasing number of travels also boosted revenues by 24.2 percent to 938.3 billion yuan (147.6 billion U.S. dollars) during the period.
The western regions are eying on the fast-growing sector as provinces such as Yunnan, Guizhou, and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region all prioritize tourism and aim to build it as their strategic pillar industry.
Zhu Shanzhong, vice chief of NTA, said that so far a total of 27 provincial-level regions have all highlighted tourism as an important industry to develop.
"The western regions, in particular, are rich in natural scenic resources, ethnic cultures, and red tourism featured by commemorations of revolutionary spirit," Zhu said.
"These resources are set to boost the sector in the western regions," Zhu said.
Zhu added that tourism is also expected to boost the income of the locals living in the less-developed west because tourism resources are vastly distributed in many villages and poverty-stricken areas.
He said that in the southwestern Guizhou Province, for instance, more than 3,000 villages now offer tourism services, with the number of such service providers in small size exceeding 60,000.