Turpan Women Earn from Cultural Tourism in the PRC - 2012

December 2012

An ADB Gender and Development Fund (GDCF) supported project is attempting to give Uighur ethnic women a chance to earn a decent income from tourism.

Grape Valley and Grape Town in Turpan, Xinjiang, People's Republic of China (PRC), an original stopping point on the ancient Silk Road, automatically evoke romantic images.

The women who received small business development training are reveling in their increased profits from various small enterprises. Photo: Raushan Mamatkulov/ADB

The natural beauty and charm of Turpan and its surrounding areas, including the ancient sites of Jiaohe and Gaochang cities, make it a popular tourism site. More than 4 million tourists visit annually, giving locals many income-earning opportunities.

Yet, for the largest ethnic minority group, the Uighur people of Turpan, day to day life is characterized by poverty. More than 37% of Uighur females are from families with daily incomes of less than US$2 a day.

The mainly Muslim ethnic minority Uighur people are descendants of the ancient Turkic tribes. Their unique culture and history attracts cultural tourists from all over the PRC.

Training women for cultural tourism

An ADB Gender and Development Fund (GDCF) supported project is attempting to give Uighur ethnic women a chance to earn a decent income from tourism.

Photo: Raushan Mamatkulov/ADB

The Turpan Construction Bureau, Turpan Tourism Bureau and the Turpan Women's Federation are partnering with ADB in the The Turpan Women’s Ethnic Minority Cultural Tourism Development Project aimed to improve the management, skills and marketing capacities of 300 Uighur women through small business development, embroidery skills training and professional tourism knowledge. The project also aimed to upgrade skills in home visit opportunities with food and beverage training. The female beneficiaries of the project come from families whose annual family income is between US$800-US$4,800.

The GDCF project is linked to the ADB Xinjiang Urban Transport and Environmental Improvement Project, which will contribute to developing the enabling environment for economic growth, and to one of Turpan's main growth sectors, Silk Road tourism. The project will invest in urban infrastructure as well as efforts to strengthen urban governance, diversify investment funding options, and promote the financial sustainability of local governments. Community based tourism and other businesses are located in areas served by the infrastructure.

"Some 50 out of 100 women who received embroidery training are producing export quality products. Thirty women were provided small start-up business grants, and some, sewing equipment, from the GDCF project."

Within weeks of the project's completion, the project is already having an impact on some women's lives.

"I have never calculated costs and profits before, however, currently I have begun to record my income and expenses every day. Thus I know my profit well now." say Ms. Yizaitigul of Grape Valley.

Yizaitigul, who is engaged in a home visit business, will increase her income by 100%, according to her estimation. She now disinfects her plates, knows how to serve food hygienically and make the food more palatable for her guests, and to protect them from illness. This element of the training was introduced as a result of complaints by tourists who wanted to experience a locally-based home visit, but were daunted by the quality and safety of the local food. She also participated in training on the fundamentals of tourism and star-level evaluation standards.

As a result of the training, three home visit spots have obtained a 3-star level certification and two are likely to obtain 2-star level certification. Prior to the training, only one home spot visit out of 40 under the project had obtained a 4-star agri-tourism spot certification.

From housewife to raisin entrepreneur

Patigul of Grape Valley describes herself in a forthright manner, "I didn't work before; I was a housewife".

Now, as a result of participating in the training provided under the project, she is making and selling raisins, and earning a modest profit. Other women, who received small business development training, are reveling in their increased profits from various small enterprises.

Aizigul from Ya'er Town, who runs a small vehicle seatcover shop, has never calculated profit and costs before, but now has a business plan and hopes to expand her business. "My profit reached US$320 during May-August", she says.

Embroidering a Hopeful Future

Another resident of Grape Town, Reziwangul, who participated in the embroidery series training and exposure visits, says that as a result of visiting Hami, Barkol and Mulei, she has adopted their material selection methods to her original products, and is now using silk, instead of wool. She has already sold a mirror drawing at $64, which she made for less than $16, thus making a 300% profit.

Some 50 out of 100 women who received embroidery training are producing export quality products. Thirty women were provided small start-up business grants, and some, sewing equipment, from the GDCF project.

Photo: Raushan Mamatkulov/ADB

Guliaisailihan made a large tablecloth as a result of an exchange visit. She adopted the skills and materials selection of Kazakh, enabling her to sell her tablecloth to a tourist for US$640. “The material of our local embroidery is wool, while that of Kazakh is silk. The silk products are more lively and bright colored. And the stitching of Kazakh is very fine”, she says. "My products have already sold out. Currently I am selling products from my neighbours. I am confident about my future".

After the training and study tours the local government has indicated that it will establish embroidery bases and embroidery exhibition centers in famous tourism spots to exhibit the manufacturing process, and to develop a unique Turpan brand.

As result of a small amount of support, training and seed finance, some 300 Uighur women now have a more hopeful future.