Hengyang in Hunan province is projected to construct 100 billion yuan ($14.9 billion) of tourism facilities during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), said Xiang Qian, chief of its tourism administration.
"Our goal is to develop a 5-A scenic spot - the highest national standard for tourist attractions in China - with a further 10 sites awarded at 4-A level and 20 at 3-A during the period," Xiang said.
With a history of more than 2,300 years, the city boasts both natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, including two ancient schools built in the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.
Its calling card, Hengshan Mountain, one of the first 5-A tourist destinations in China, provides a picturesque view all year round. "In addition to the mountain, Hengyang has much more to offer," Xiang said.
City looks to develop integrated tourism
As an example, he cited a sea of bamboo forests named after Cai Lun, a Hengyangborn inventor from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), who innovated methods for making high-quality paper.
Other sights include the national forest parks of Goulou Peak, Heaven Mountain and Siming Mountain, as well as Qishan Mountain and Jiangkou Niaozhou, a key national nature reserve focused on bird protection.
Travel routes in various rural areas with special local flavors are a key feature of Hengyang tourism.
The attractions include a 10,000-mu (about 667 hectares) apricot orchard in Gaiwan township, tea mountains in Zhuhui district, rapeseed, peach and plum blossom in ancient Xuanzhou township, and preserved villages built more than 600 years ago in Miaoqian township.
"The boom in rural tourism went beyond my expectations," Xiang said.
During this year's weeklong National Day holiday in early October, a new scenic site with the theme of the Flower and Fruit Mountain, the home of Sun Wukong, or the Monkey King, a figure from the classic Chinese mythological novel Journey to the West, attracted more than 10,000 visitors on its opening day alone.
Local cuisines also add to the charm of the city, which delight tourists with an unforgettable culinary experience, Xiang said.
An advanced transport network involving high-speed rail, expressways and air routes provides easy access to the city, he added.
With flight services linking to a number of major destinations in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Sanya and Kunming, the city's airport plans to open routes to Chongqing and Fuzhou, Fujian province, in the near future.
The entire city received 3.12 million tourists during the October holiday, an increase of 13 percent year-on-year. The visitors brought 1.44 billion yuan in tourism revenue, up 11 percent from a year earlier.
"To step up building Hengshan Mountain into an international premier tourist destination, we plan to leverage tourism resources across the city and develop a new economic zone centering on the mountain and covering surrounding areas," Xiang said.