Pathway to develop tourism and protect cultural heritage and a new business model


At an altitude of 1,880 meters, Azheke Village is located at the heart of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, a site inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List. The village is a traditional habitat for Hani people, with only 64 households and 479 villagers. It is also one of the poorest village in the area. The villagers’ average yearly income is merely 3,000 RMB. Recently it has become quite a popular tourist destination, but its tourist facilities and services were very inadequate.

In January 2018, Professor Bao Jigang from Sun Yat-sen University and his research team were invited by the local government to develop a plan to improve tourism in Azheke. Some of his postgraduate students visited the village and provide on-site technical assistance. These efforts have brought big success, helping to improve the village’s environment, raise farmers’ income and make Azheke a much better tourist destination.

A new business model. A village collective enterprise has been established, which mobilizes villagers to improve the environment of the village and runs the village’s tourism business. The profits of the enterprise are collectively owned by the villagers.

Assistance provided by experts and government officials. Technicians from Professor Bao Jigang’s team (mostly postgraduate students) and young officials designated by the local government worked together to take a lead in establishing the village collective enterprise. The technicians and the officials were not involved in the profit sharing, and the fiscal affairs of the enterprise were under the supervision of the whole village. This non-profit technical assistance program will last for three years. The initial grant to kick start the program was provided by the government, and the enterprise does not need to pay it back. The expenses of the technicians were covered by Professor Bao’s research team. 

Collaboration to achieve three goals. The experts and local government officials worked to build villagers’ capacity and raise their awareness, while the villagers made substantial efforts to achieve three goals—protecting cultural heritage, developing tourism and lifting the village out of poverty.

Four rules to obey. In order achieve sustainable development, villagers and the enterprise are required to obey the following four rules: 1. After the establishment of the enterprise, villagers are not allowed to rent, sell or destruct their traditional-style residence; 2. The enterprise is not allowed to accept any investment from private entities; 3. Tourism of the village is under centralized management of the enterprise, and the villagers are not allowed to engage in unauthorized business actions on their own; 4. When developing tourism, the enterprise should always prioritize the protection of the village’s tradition.