SHANGHAI, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- It is the second day of China's week-long National Day holiday, and Lai Xingcai, owner of a countryside lodge in the outskirts of Shanghai, is busy receiving guests from downtown.
His two-storey lodge is renovated from a common Chinese village house. What attracts urbanites to his lodge is the surrounding field cultivated into a small zoo, a herb garden and bamboo garden.
Lai said his lodge was fully booked three days before the holiday.
The lodge offers five guest rooms, and provides guests with a gardening and agricultural experience, making Lai's house a good resort for family entertaining.
To add to the pastoral sense, Lai has named each guest room after the twenty-four traditional Chinese solar terms such as autumn equinox or slight snow.
"My wife was born and raised in a village in Jinshan District of Shanghai. We share a strong feeling for the countryside. We had jobs in Shanghai's downtown, yet years ago we both quit and returned to the rural area to develop eco-farming and tourism," Lai said.
Lai works with his wife and another villager on the daily operation of the lodge. In busy times, he hires villagers as part-time helpers for harvesting rice and cooking meals.
"The Chinese government calls for building a beautiful countryside that helps improve the rural environment and makes it ripe for developing rural tourism," he said.
There are around 300 rural lodges in Shanghai's rural districts of Qingpu, Chongming and Jinshan. Some enjoy sea view, while others are surrounded by paddy fields. Prices for an overnight stay in guest rooms vary from a few hundred yuan to over a thousand yuan (145.6 U.S. dollars).
The Shanghai municipal government rolled out measures on Sept. 28 to strengthen the land management for leisure agriculture and rural tourism, and called for ensuring land supply for rural tourism development and service facilities.
"The regulation signifies that the government allows the development of the lodging industry in rural areas, which gives farmers a wider range of income," said Feng Xuegang, dean of the School of Business Administration of the East China Normal University, who was involved in consulting for the measures.
He said some rural lodges were operated by professional companies. Local villagers receive rent from leasing their houses. They can choose to work in the lodges as waiters or waitresses for extra money, or run the businesses themselves.
Feng said that the policy had helped revitalize small-scale use of rural land, which was previously restricted for agricultural use.
Shanghai has hosted a series of activities such as "Country Bed & Breakfast Experience Week" to encourage urbanites to experience the beauty of the suburbs.
The municipal government has helped governments in Yunnan, Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang to develop rural tourism by sending specialists to train locals on how to plan and manage rural tourism by taking advantage of their resources, for example, in music, tea culture, coffee and agriculture.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural affairs said that over 2.8 billion Chinese traveled for leisure experience to rural destinations in 2017, when the sector generated over 740 billion yuan of revenue. The rural tourism industry directly employed 9 million people and benefited 7 million rural families.
Dai Bin, head of the China Tourism Academy, said rural tourism has provided a better life for farmers while cultivating a public awareness "clear water and lush mountains are invaluable assets." By enjoying the beauty of rural areas, travelers are more motivated to protect the countryside.
To develop his business, Lai plans to work with professionals to hold activities such as flower arrangement, yoga and tea ceremonies to combine with the beautiful scenery to attract more tourists.
"I believe more and more people living in urban areas would love the leisure experience in countryside lodges," Lai said.