Tourists watch a lantern show in Huangshan, Anhui Province. (SHUI CONGZE/XINHUA)
When Feng Jiafeng, a 36-year-old robotics engineer from Foshan, Guangdong Province, entered a guesthouse called Alina’s Garden in Huangshan, Anhui Province, which was renovated from a Huizhou-style building from the Qing Dynasty (1644)-1911), he felt isolated from the outside world and everything slowed down .
Inside the B&B, Armin Schuber, the Austrian owner of the house who used to run a logistics company in the UK, was busy baking pizza while his wife Huang Cheung made fried pork with brown sauce, a traditional Chinese dish. Their four-year-old daughter Alina quickly ran to Feng and greeted him.
“We fell in love with it immediately, including the traditional architecture and family atmosphere. There is a personal connection that a hotel cannot offer,” said Feng, who brought his family of four, including two children, to spend four nights.
Feng is one of the families who chose to spend this year’s Spring Festival holiday at Alina’s Garden in Techuan Village of Huangshan, Yaxian County. The 12-room homestay was fully booked from the beginning of the Lunar New Year on Saturday to Thursday.
“This was the busiest Spring Festival for us in the past three years. Some rooms were even reserved a month ago,” Huang said.
The change is the result of China’s recent downgrading of its COVID-19 management from Class A to Class B. Under Class B management, travelers no longer need to present health codes and negative nucleic acid test results or undergo temperature checks when entering train stations and airports.
With the new policy taking hold, more than 570,000 tourists flooded into Huangshan, a well-known tourist city, from Saturday to Wednesday, an increase of 108.65 percent year-on-year. It brought the city 28.11 million yuan ($4.14 million) in ticket revenue alone, which jumped 303.04% year-on-year.
On Tuesday, Mount Huangshan, known around the world for its imposing peaks and massive boulders, saw 34,385 visitors in a day in mid-January, the highest number since 2018.
“Huangshan homestay, which is embedded in the traditional Weizhou culture, has become a trendy way for urban people to walk the track and enjoy some peace and quiet,” said Ling Yun, party secretary of Huangshan at the local homestay promotion conference.
“The city is ready to operate at full capacity and embrace tourists from all over the world to spend a unique vacation here,” she said.
To attract more tourists, the Huangshan government launched a policy package. For example, consumption vouchers totaling 2 million yuan have been launched for tourists from around the world to use to deduct their consumption fees when they choose to spend their Spring Festival at home in the city.
“No one would refuse to live in a house with a long history but at the same time possessing all the services that a hotel has,” Shuber said, adding that he took over the residence without hesitation when they took a family vacation in Huangshan.
Shuver, a native of the village, said that the idea for him to build such a homestay is to create a fusion experience between the East and the West and bring the best of both worlds. “I’m pretty sure we’ll get more visitors here in Huangshan, especially foreign friends, in the future,” he said.