China is making a major push to upgrade the tourist infrastructure in the region where China touches Burma and Laos and the Mekong River flows south into the Golden Triangle. The latest venture is to attract 15.5 million tourists to Xishuangbanna, a mountainous tropical region.
The plan is to boost services annually that would attract the tourists, including 500,000 foreign tourists, by 2015, a local official told Xinhua news agency.
Lu Yonghe, the deputy head of Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture, which borders Burma and Laos to its south, said the government plans to make Xishuangbanna a major resort region in southwest China. Roads and express highways in the area are already modernized.
Xishuangbanna is part of a large tropical virgin forest that covers southwest China’s Yunnan Province and northern Burma and Laos. It is home to diverse plant and animal life including endangered Asian elephants, but tourist infrastructure is relatively poor in the region.
Still, more than 10 million domestic tourists and 290,000 foreign tourists visited Xishuangbanna in 2011.
In the next five years, plans call for establishing 10 top tourist destinations and to attract more than 10 globally recognized hotel chains, officials said.
Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture is located at the southern tip of Yunnan Province. It shares a boundary of 966 kilometers (619 miles) with Burma and Laos in the east, south and west, and is a gateway from China to Southeast Asia by land. It is the home of the Dai ethnic group and was known as "Mengbanaxi" in ancient times, a name that means a miraculous utopia, and is home to 12 other ethnic minorities.
Located in the south extension of the Hengduan Mountains, more than 95 per cent of its territory is mountainous and hilly. Jinghong City is the major southern city. The Lancang River runs through the prefecture and when it passes through Laos and Thailand it is called the Mekong River.