Day 17: Crash Course in Tourism
For my Inquiry Project today, I visited the tourism center for a radical Inquiry Project phase. Instead of talking to locals, I decided to up the ante and visit the tourism center, and talk to the professionals. Their job was to help tourists and provide insight about tourism, so I figured they would know more than the layman. I think that this is an unheard-of activity in Microcampus, and I was seriously concerned I would get thrown out. As it turned out, the guy was really nice. And also against the Inquiry Project covenant, instead of a casual conversation, I decided to make this a formal interview. My logic was that unlike locals, this person was a professional, and would be more used to a formal interview. Here is the transcript, copied from my Phase 3.
Today (March 26, 2018) I also visited the office for tourism, and spoke to Mr. Zhang Rui, who worked there. Unlike most locals, he wore a suit and tie, and had on loafers. His job was to help tourists, and he knew a surprising amount, much more than that of the layman, about tourism. His first main point was that the number of tourists here was an uncertain number, and he could not make a reasonable estimate. The second thing we touched base on is the reason for tourism: His argument was that the main attraction was the Bai culture, as opposed to scenery. He rightly pointed out that the scenery was ubiquitous to every town along Erhai, and lake view and mountains were not limited to Xizhou. Bai culture, on the other hand, was unique to this region. When I probed about the impacts of tourism, he responded by saying that tourism is not changing the culture. "Tourists only stay for a few days. They will not bother spreading their own culture, because they are here to learn about Xizhou culture." We moved on to how the tourism industry is doing in Xizhou, and he firmly replied: "Not very well. There are no large restaurants here, there are only small diners, and some people do not want to eat there. There are no hotels or guesthouses, and the places that are already here are not of high quality. There is no entertainment facilities, which does not make it interesting for tourists. The infrastructure is not fully developed, the roads are not paved..." Even though that is a pessimistic viewpoint, it is easy to see he is right. In addition, since Xizhou is an old town, private developers are not allowed to build skyscrapers and modern buildings. I questioned about how Xizhou could improve its tourism industry, and he replied: "First, building infrastructure would help Xizhou greatly, making Xizhou have modern facilities make it more attractive to tourists looking for a comfortable stay. And second, advertising would help, because there is no advertisement about Xizhou as a tourism destination. The government is dedicated to keep Xizhou as it is, so we can preserve the Bai culture and by extension the tourism industry." Even though his viewpoints were rather pessimistic, he is right on all counts. So it comes down to balance. Do we want a tourist town, but a mutation of traditional ways, or do we want to preserve Xizhou as it is but lose a major sorce of revenue?