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Establishing tourism sustainability in a globally important agricultural heritage system in China: A case of social and eco‐system recovery

Anthony M. Fuller, Jigang Bao, Yi Liu and Xiaoyi Zhou

Growth and Change, 2022, vol. 53, issue 3, 1267-1281

Abstract: This paper in the form of a narrative, contributes an account of revitalizing sustainability of a World Heritage site—the Hani rice‐fish terrace system—in a pristine area of cultural and ecological significance in Southwest China. Rice‐fish farming in mountain terraces is an ingenious system that has existed in various forms for hundreds of years. However, due to international recognition by FAO and UNESCO of this area as a world agricultural heritage site, the system was threatened of losing its eco‐social balance because of mass tourism overload. Remarkably, after a period of development chaos and because of changing actors and roles, a semblance of sustainability has been regained through firm protection and management of the chief tourism asset—the rice terraces. Utilising a stakeholder approach to form multiple narratives, our research reveals the interplay of government, private enterprise, Hani people and outside experts in reshaping the trajectory of tourism development when the world‐heritage attractiveness brings new threats to the ecological systems and turned the destination into a challenging geographical environment. It demonstrates the need for strong and inclusive management techniques some of which have now been applied in the core Hani area, with appreciable success.

Date: 2022
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