While China's economy slows after two decades of explosive growth, financial backing in key business sectors in Yunnan continues to increase. A document released earlier this week by the Yunnan Real Estate Association (YREA) reports investment in the province's tourism and real estate markets combined to top two trillion yuan (US$321 billion) last year and that number is expected to grow in 2014.
Fueling investment numbers are several enormous projects aimed at expanding Yunnan's already thriving travel industry to places that the government has deemed underdeveloped. Ten "5A tourist attractions" scattered around the province are currently under construction with secured investment totaling 74 billion yuan (US$11.9 billion). All projects have scheduled completion dates in 2015.
Perhaps the largest of these is the sprawling Ancient Dian Kingdom, a 22 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion) amusement park which covers more than 6,000 acres just east of Jinning. The 22 billion yuan (US$3.5 billion) project broke ground in 2012 and is still accepting private investment while it is being built.
Other themed development endeavors include a Jurassic dinosaur valley in Lufeng, a fossil exhibit in Chengjiang, a paleolithic park in Yuanmou and a Nanzhao Kingdom attraction outside of Dali. In addition to the ten major tourist attractions, investment numbers reflect remodeling work or the wholesale construction of 60 "specialty tourist towns" in Yunnan.
Economist Yin Ziqin (尹子琴), quoted in the YREA report, said many of the plans represent a new phase in the development of Yunnan's tourism industry. Several of the projects are incorporating villas and other property development schemes into their planning, hoping visitors will buy second homes at these destinations. According to Yin:
A big problem with the tourism sector in Yunnan is that travelers only spend a short time [here]. If "tourists" can be turned into "guests", Yunnan tourism can reach a higher level. In this way, the tourism and real estate industries can develop together.
While the investment money flowing into Yunnan may be an encouraging sign of continued growth for the provincial economy, it is not without drawbacks. Earlier this year, eleven construction sites on the shores of Fuxian Lake were closed down due to environmental concerns. China Central Television broadcast two exposés in February to a national audience documenting violations at the "tourist real estate projects". Work remains suspended indefinitely until new environmental impact assessments are completed.
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