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Zhejiang embraces prosperity drive

By Luo Wangshu| China Daily| Updated: March 15, 2022 L M S


Tourists visit "the grassland over the cloud" in Anji county, Zhejiang province, in May. [WANG GANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

The eastern province is a demonstration zone for policy support and innovative measures. Luo Wangshu reports.

Independent tourists heading to Anji county in the eastern province of Zhejiang now have easier access to local travel information and discounted tickets, thanks to Anji Haoqi Travel, an online tourism platform.

Rather than staying at chain hotels like group tourists, independent travelers usually prefer to use premises such as homestays operated by local people.

"Tourists usually ask their lodging hosts for travel advice and ticket information. But tourist sites often only provide discounted tickets to group travelers. In Anji, those lodgings are usually operated by local middle-aged or senior couples, who have less leverage to bargain with tourist sites to gain preferential treatment for their guests," Xu Jiawei, founder of the online tourism platform that focuses on Anji and neighboring areas, told local media.

More than 300 lodging houses and a dozen tourist sites are scattered across the county. Their information has been collected on Xu's platform, which has developed a smart map called the Anji Haoqi Global Tourism Map.

Each lodging house and tourist site has a code on the map, and visitors can scan it to obtain travel and lodging information, as well as coupons for tickets.

The platform links lodging hosts and tourist sites to attract more independent travelers and lower ticket prices, aiming for a win-win solution for visitors, small hotel operators and tourist sites.

Although the tourism sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic, each lodging house owner who joined the platform has seen average annual income rise by about 20,000 to 30,000 yuan ($3,150 to 4,720) in two years.

Business opportunity

Xu, a 29-year-old Anji native and college graduate, discovered the business opportunity when some relatives complained about the information gap for local travel.

In 2019, she quit her job in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, and returned to her hometown to start the business.

"I started with 60,000 yuan. At the most difficult time, I only had 25 yuan in my pocket. I even begrudged buying a bottle of water," she told China Youth Daily in a recent interview.

She received a loan of 100,000 yuan thanks to a recommendation from the Anji government.

The money came from a foundation that encourages young people who start businesses in the province, and it has also offered Xu assistance by helping to manage her account.

Xu's success reflects Zhejiang's preferential policies aimed at attracting high-quality talent and encouraging graduates to return to rural areas and create startups. It is intended to stimulate local socioeconomic development and promote the cause of common prosperity.

Last month, Chen Zhong, deputy director of the Zhejiang Provincial Human Resources and Social Security Department, told a news conference that college students can borrow up to 500,000 yuan to start businesses.

If the venture fails, the government will help repay at least 80 percent of the loan initially, while extending the period for borrowers to pay back the money. Those who are unable to fully repay the loan may be placed on a credit blacklist.

Noting that more than 10 million students will graduate from China's colleges and universities this year, Chen said the province will make every effort to seize the opportunity to attract more educated young people.

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