PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 11:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Free toilets, Wi-fi to lure tourists back to historic Fenghuang after entry fee

BIO

Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui
 

A historical city in Hunan province is desperately trying to lure visitors back with free toilets and wireless internet after the introduction of an entrance fee caused a local protest and left Fenghuang deserted of tourists.

The move came a day ahead of the long May 1 holiday, the first peak-travel weekend since a 148 yuan (HK$185) entry fee was imposed on April 10.

"We have rented 14 toilets in the city that can be used free of charge by tourists," deputy county head Cai Long told the provincial Xiaoxiang Morning News on Tuesday.

"After May 1, two additional toilets will be built," he said. "The historical city will have a free three-star public toilet every 3.6 kilometres."

The county official said the entrance fee would help meet the 28-million-yuan cost of upgrading the city's infrastructure, including providing free drinking water and Wi-fi for tourists.

When the fee was announced three weeks ago, riot police had to confront an angry mob of hundreds of vendors who had gathered outside a government building to protest against it.

A week later, vendors told the Post that the number of tourists had fallen by half. On Tuesday, a hostel owner told China Central Television that although his hostel had been fully booked in March, he had no reservations for May 1.

Tourism is the most important source of revenue for residents of Fenghuang. Last year, tourism generated 5.3 billion yuan in income for the city, according government figures. In 2010, tourism accounted for 63 per cent of its economic output.

Last year, some 6.9 million people visited the picturesque city that served as a capital for ethnic Miao rebels in the late Qing dynasty. 

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