Riot police were called to Fenghuang old town on Thursday as locals protested against a new entry fee for the popular tourist site in Hunan, which was introduced on Wednesday.
Hundreds of Fenghuang residents, most them local businessmen, gathered in front of Fenghuang government offices to protest against the introduction of the entry fee, which they claim will reduce tourist numbers and negatively affect trade, Beijing Times reported.
The situation stabilised in the afternoon after riot police were dispatched to maintain order. The newspaper said several people were arrested after scuffles with officers.
Fenghuang old town is known for its beautiful well-preserved traditional buildings and is a popular tourist attraction.
In the past, fees were charged at a few tourist spots in the town. But under the new measure, all tourists are charged an entry fee of 148 yuan (HK$185), which also grants them access to Nanhua Mountain, another tourist attraction that used to charge a 108-yuan entry fee.
The new charge benefits tourists, a Fenghuang tourism official told Xiaoxiang Morning Herald. The newspaper quoted the administration chief as saying, “Access to more tour sites for the same amount of money”.
But local residents, most of them business owners benefitting from the booming tourism industry, argue the practice will hurt their businesses.
“Some visitors only want to enjoy the views along the river. Others only spend a night here. For people who do not like visiting the tourist attractions, a compulsory charge will discourage them,” said Du Fei, a hotel owner in the town who participated in the protest.
Fewer visitors were seen in the old town after the introduction of the new fee, Beijing Times said. Another hotel owner, Shen Yu, said he sensed the impact right away. “I normally charge 150 yuan a day for a room. But I will have to take 120 yuan today,” he said, adding only nine rooms were filled out of 20.
On Wednesday, the chairman of the tourism company that administered the site revealed the Fenghuang government would receive 40 per cent of the entry-fee revenue.