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Tourism plans for quake county revealed

A county in southwest China that was devastated in the May 12 earthquake is expected to begin officially promoting its ruins as a tourist attraction next month, according to plan released by the county tourism authorities.


The plan to build tourism infrastructure in Beichuan County, Sichuan Province, is expected to be completed in April if the plans are ratified by the Mianyang City government.


But a Beichuan government official said Wednesday that it was too early to open the county to tourists in April.


"The infrastructures in Beichuan, especially the roads, are not ready for opening to tourists," said Yang Liming, head of the county publicity department.


"The plan is only a draft proposal. We are still discussing the details with the provincial tourism bureau," he said.


Under the plan, Beichuan will set up a company to manage tourism. It will set up a lookout point at Sandaoguai, rebuild the old county gate and build a memorial platform at Beichuan Middle School.


It will also build parking lots, snack bars, souvenir and local product shops at Renjiaping Village, the entrance to the county. Hotels will be established at the Jina Qiang Ethnic Minority Village.


Tourists can ascend Sandaoguai mountain to gaze at the ruined county seat, before visiting the ruins of Beichuan Middle School where more than 1,200 students and teachers died. Then they can see reconstruction work and distinct cultures in the Jina Qiang Ethnic Minority Village, according to the plan released on Monday.


Entrance to the area will be free, according to the plan.


"Science education and quake relief measures should be important tourism themes when we promote tourism," said Wang Tingzhi, dean of Tourism School of Sichuan University.


"We should consider the feelings of the families of the dead and the social influence, and conduct orderly and strict management," he added. "Only in this way could the quake ruins not be commercialized."


The ruins of Beichuan County, Sichuan Province, saw almost 200,000 people visit during the Spring Festival from Jan. 25 to Feb. 9, according to the county tourism bureau.


The former seat of Beichuan, on the juncture of two fault lines, was leveled in the quake, which left more than 69,000 people dead and 374,000 injured.


The new county seat, 23 km from the original site, is expected to have 58,000 residents in 2010 and 110,000 in 2020.


(Xinhua News Agency March 4,2009)