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New entry fees for scenic town

updated: 2013-04-17

China Daily, April 17, 2013

Authorities in Fenghuang county, Hunan province, reduced student ticket prices for its scenic old town and gave more people free entry amid increasing pressure from netizens and small businesses who protested the tourist site's new paid-entry requirement.

Tourists have been charged 148 yuan ($23.93) for a ticket to visit the old town since April 10. Entry was previously free.

Cai Long, deputy head of the county government, said on Tuesday that the new ticketing policy will not be abandoned. He said it helps to better protect the site and ensures a more pleasant experience for tourists.

Starting April 20, Cai said, students with a valid ID or student card only need to pay 20 yuan for a ticket to the old town of Fenghuang, which has stood for at least 300 years. The current student admission charge is 80 yuan.

He said the government has also adjusted its free-entry policy, which now applies to two additional counties in Xiangxi in addition to residents of the Tujia-Miao autonomous prefecture, which now applies to all residents in Huaihua, Tongren, two neighboring cities of Fenghuang apart from local residents from Xiangxi Tujia-Miao autonomous prefecture (Fenghuang was a part of the prefecture).

Cai said the government received 40 yuan from each ticket, adding that revenue from the tickets will go to the town's maintenance work.

He said that the abundance of tourists generated heavy traffic and an excessive amount of trash.

Gong Fuyun, who has been running a hostel in the Fenghuang old town for more than eight years, said he hopes the new entry charge will "bring some positive changes".

Gong said the government has started repairing the roads and banning non-local vehicles from entering the old town.

Cai from the county government added that about 3 billion yuan will be allocated to infrastructure improvement and other management work in the old town by the end of 2015.

Fenghuang is not the first such site to begin charging admission fees. The entry price for the ancient town of Pingyao in Shanxi province is 150 yuan on ordinary days and 160 yuan during Spring Festival.

However, the new policy in Fenghuang has sparked fierce debate and protests since its implementation.

Yuan Yulai, a lawyer who specializes in administrative law, took to his official Sina Weibo account on Saturday to call for a boycott of Fenghuang, which won support of many netizens.

Many shop owners and small traders in Fenghuang closed their shops on Thursday in a strike protesting the decision to charge for entry.

Du Xiaoli, who works for a travel agency in Fenghuang that helps tourists book hotels, said reservations had decreased by at least 70 percent compared with the same period last year despite April normally being the peak season for travel to the old town.

Wang Jianmin, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Tourism Research Center, said the government of Fenghuang is defending its ticket policy with "a lousy excuse".

"There are many other available measures to limit tourist numbers, such as asking tourists to make reservation one day before a visit and establishing a maximum daily capacity of tourists," he said.

"Tourists need to pay taxes on accommodation and food at tourist sites; therefore, the government of Fenghuang is guaranteed sufficient money for its preservation work."

Recommended China Guide:

1.Fenghuang Tours

2.Pingyao Tours