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Sichuan to increase its appeal as a place of "good to eat and play"
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Sichuan to increase its appeal as a place of "good to eat and play"

Sichuan province, famous for giant pandas, cuisine and a leisurely lifestyle, is accelerating efforts to increase its appeal as a travel and consumption destination where it is "good to eat and play", according to top provincial officials.

The province is also well-known for its ancient Shu civilization, which can be traced back 5,000 years.

The Sanxingdui archaeological site in Guanghan, which features world-famous relics such as a gold mask, various bronze heads and a 3.96-meter-tall bronze tree, has been fully booked daily since a new museum opened in July, tripling the museum complex's capacity, said Zuo Yongxiang, vice-governor of Sichuan, at a news conference held in Beijing by the State Council Information Office.

Sichuan also has an attractive environment. The Jiuzhaigou Valley features plateau lakes and waterfalls, the Huanglong Scenic Area is famous for around 3,000 colorful pools as well as gorges and forests, and the Daocheng Yading Scenic Area, with snowy mountains surrounded by rivers and alpine meadows, is known as the "last Shangri-La".

The province has improved its transportation system and tourism facilities for a "fast travel, slow exploration" experience, said Zuo, adding that once-distant destinations are now easily accessible.

For instance, the Chengdu-Huangshengguan section of the Sichuan-Qinghai Railway will open this year, reducing the travel time from the provincial capital, Chengdu, to Jiuzhaigou from 10 hours to three, he said.

The province also innovates in diverse tourism offerings, such as soaking in a hot spring on a snowy mountain, taking a night tour of the Jinjiang River, or greenway cycling and hiking.

It welcomed more than 40 million tourist visits during the May Day holiday from May 1 to 5, up 9.5 percent year-on-year, according to data from local authorities. During the past winter, the number of tourist visits was up 32 percent, and tourism revenue saw a 36 percent increase.

Surging consumption

The tourism boom also drives consumption in the province, which has a population of 91 million. Sichuan's total retail sales reached 2.63 trillion yuan ($363 billion) in 2023, ranking fifth in the country, with year-on-year growth of 9.2 percent.

One of the key drivers is dining consumption, said Zuo. "In Sichuan, there are a wide variety of dining places available. There are more than 10,000 teahouses, 20,000 hotpot restaurants and a total of 300,000 various restaurants in Chengdu alone," he said.

In recent years, Sichuan has hosted world-class events such as the FISU World University Games and the World Team Table Tennis Championships, which also boosted the province's consumer market. The International Horticultural Exhibition 2024, which opened in Chengdu on April 26 and runs through Oct 28, has attracted more than 300,000 visitors so far.

"Walking the streets of Chengdu, you will find the 1,000-year-old Daci Temple neighboring the trendy Taikoo Li commercial street, where tradition and modernity blend harmoniously, symbolizing Sichuan's connection to the global consumer market," Zuo said.

Last year, the province saw 45 international brands open global or national flagship stores, he said, adding that "Sichuan-made" caviar now has a 12 percent share of the global market.

Food security

Furthermore, as a major grain-producing province, Sichuan also emphasizes safeguarding national food security.

Huang Qiang, governor of Sichuan, said at the news conference that the province had grain output of 35.94 billion kilograms last year, a 26-year high.

"Currently, the land in Sichuan is bustling with harvest and planting activities. This year's summer grain harvest is already a certainty," Huang said.

Sichuan also maintains its status as the nation's top provincial-level area for pork production, with more than 66 million pigs slaughtered last year, he said. It also ranks first in the production of 15 agricultural products such as rapeseed and potatoes, the governor added.

In addition, Sichuan has a forest area of 253 billion hectares and one-fifth of the country's bamboo forests, bringing ecological as well as economic benefits, Huang said.

China DailyGu Yetao

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