Subsequent to the announcement of beginning of China India Tourism Year in India in January 2016, a move basis the decision jointly taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping to enhance tourism between the countries, a delegation from China and the Tourism Administration of Sichuan, one of the largest provinces of China held conference in New Delhi today to boost tourism from India to Sichuan.
Known for its Giant Pandas and world famous spicy cuisine, Sichuan and its Tourism Administration aimed through this conference to spread better awareness about the province amongst Indian travellers with its tagline as "Sichuan - More than Pandas".
At the conference, Sichuan Tourism Administration highlighted the province to be home to not only the giant pandas, but also to diverse art and culture, breathtaking natural beauty, unique culinary, ancient history and vast resources which makes it the tourism cynosure of China.
Sichuan, located in the hinterland of south west China has complex and diverse topography with plateaus in west, Sichuan basin in middle and hilly region in east. Sichuan has favourable geographical and ecological resources with more than 4000 tourist attractions which includes 9 of 5A level scenic spots, 5 world heritage sites, 4 world biosphere reserves, 2 World Geo Parks, 21 China's best tourist cities. The complex and volatile natural environment of Sichuan gives birth to a rich wildlife making it a home to rare species including 80% of the world's giant pandas, Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey, black bears, rare birds, plants and trees.
The conference also highlighted that Sichuan is gifted with remarkable world cultural heritage by throwing light on ancient Chinese masterpieces. A prominent name amongst these in the Conference was Dujiangyan Irrigation Project in Sichuan which has made its mark as one of the world heritage sites and "ancestor of the world's water conservancy culture". The UNESCO-listed Dujiangyan site shows how ancient Chinese ingenuity mastered the raging waters of the rivers running down from the Tibetan foothills at a furious speed back over 2,200 years. This brilliant system transferred what was a hazardous series of floods into the life force of the province as it filled the otherwise dry plains of Chengdu, Sichuan. Dujiangyan irrigation infrastructure is the only existing ancient hydro-power project featuring diversions without a dam in the world. It is still in use today and has many historic sites surrounding the area. Another famous historic and cultural tourist attraction - Mount Qingcheng which is listed as a world heritage site and is located to the southwest of Dujiangyan was highlighted during the conference. Mount Qingcheng is one of the birthplaces of China's Taoism and is reputed for the Taoist culture, ancient architecture, temples and historical and cultural deposit of this ancient city ruled by various dynasties in the past.
Another cultural heritage which was brought to light in the Conference was the Leshan Giant Buddha or Lingyun Giant Buddha which is the sculpture of a seated Maitreya Buddha located at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers in southern Sichuan, close to the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture carved out from a cliff faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below its feet. Built in Tang Dynasty, this stone sculpture is the largest stone-carved sitting Maitreya Buddha in the world. Mount Emei Scenic Area including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and easily rivals other famous stone carvings such as the Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. As one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China, Mt. Emei features more than 26 temples including 8 major ones which frequently hold Buddhist ceremonies. Mt. Emei has a steep terrain and boasts of great natural scenery. It is covered by more than 3,000 kinds of plants, including a number of rare trees.
Apart from the abovementioned cultural world heritage, the Conference through various presentations highlighted the other diverse natural scenic spots and landscapes of Sichuan of immense tourist significance. This included Jiuzhaigou Valley, a nature reserve and national park located in the northern part of Sichuan which owing to its beautiful landscape has been branded as "fairyland on earth" and is as well as listed as both natural World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reseve. Jiuzhaigou Valley is highly acclaimed as a tourist attraction for nature lovers with its crystal lakes, multi-level waterfalls, colourful forests, snow-capped peaks and Tibetan culture. Over 140 types of birds can be found in the valley, together with many other kinds of endangered animals and plants including pandas and Sichuan takins. Another natural scenic beauty from Sichuan which finds place in World Heritage Sites is Huanglong for its mesmerizing colourful ponds, snow peaks, emerald lakes, layers of waterfalls and hotsprings. With its diversity in forest ecosystems, Huanglong is home to many endangered species including the giant panda and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey. The conference also delved upon the other diverse natural resources and scenic beauties which Sichuan promises to tourists who are nature lovers. These included Sichuan giant panda sanctuaries, beautiful alpine valley sceneries, colourful forests including extra ordinary natural bamboo forest, snow peaks, crystal glaciers, waterfalls, hot and cold springs, grass lands, hills, glaciers, wetlands, turbulent rivers and deep valleys.
The Conference further highlighted the great reputation enjoyed by the spicy Sichuan cuisine famous worldwide for its spices, unique cooking and heavy local hot and spicy flavour. In nutshell, it reiterated what is often said that "To eat in China, taste in Sichuan".
The Conference brought out the rich tradition, cultural and ethnic diversity of Sichuan which makes this province an exciting tourism destination to unravel. Being inhabited by multiple ethnic groups with China's largest Yi ghetto and the only place in China where Qiang ethnic group resides, Sichuan is known as the "the Ethnic Corridor". The tradition, local customs and culture of Sichuan is brought alive in various art and cultural forms such as Sichuan opera, the oldest form of Chinese opera characterized by face-changing, fire-spitting and other stunts; tea art performances; puppet shows; lamp rolling. To give a glimpse of the rich art, culture and tradition enjoyed by Sichuan, the conference will be followed by a Cultural Evening in Delhi on 9th April, 2016 showcasing art and cultural performance by artists from China.
At the conference, Sichuan Tourism Administration also unveiled the trial measures and the incentive programmes planned to be soon launched by Sichuan Tourism Administration for India including incentive program for Chartered Flight, incentive program for selling Sichuan Tourism related products and incentive program for organizing tourism amongst others.
Present in the conference, Mr. Wang Ning, Executive Vice Governor, Sichuan remarked "I am hopeful that the Conference will help Indian people better understand Sichuan and create a positive atmosphere for the tourism in Sichuan from India. Both India and Sichuan are fascinating tourism destination. Just like India, Sichuan has rich ancient heritage, cultural diversity and centuries old civilization which we take pride immense pride in."
Mr. Song Ming, Deputy Director General, Sichuan Tourism Administration who was also present in the conference said "With its picturesque scenery, rich wildlife, unique religious beliefs, rustic folk customs and magnificent history, Sichuan is a magical land for traveller who feels after coming to Sichuan that living in utopia is no longer a distant dream." He further added that "This Conference is an important launching pad for us to boost tourism from India to Sichuan and is a precursor of an action plan that includes a number of incentives and trial measures for travellers as well as tour operators from India."
Also present in the conference were other dignitaries including Mr. H.E. Le Yucheng, Chinese Ambassador to India. The conference was organised in India by Pettitts India Tours Pvt. Ltd.. The conference concluded with signing of agreement between 3 major Indian outbound tour operators and Chengdu Anyi International Travel Service Co. Ltd, China.
Today, Sichuan has become the most important window to showcase western China with economic and trade relations established with over 200 countries. More than half of fortune 500 companies are operating in Sichuan. Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan was recently selected by Forbes Magazine as the fastest growing city in the world in next 10 years. Sichuan is projecting a brilliant image of prosperity and modernization with over 30 international direct air routes, over 200 domestic air routes and 11 operating airports in Sichuan. This includes Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, one of the four largest airports in China. These airports are close to tourism attractions. Such rampant infrastructure modernization with great airways, railways and highway connectivity, over 500 star ranked hotels and travelling routes like Sichuan north west charm line which is one of the most beautiful lines in China's history makes Sichuan as one of the most sought after emerging travel destination for India and the rest of the world.