NANCHANG, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Ten years ago, Qiu Wuquan could barely feed his family by working as a tea and rice farmer in his hometown of Wuyuan, a place known today as "the most beautiful countryside" in China.
Last year, the 54-year-old man's rural inn brought him a net profit of 200,000 yuan (31,700 U.S. Dollars), or 29 times the average per capita net income in the county in east China's Jiangxi province.
The shift began in 2001 when Qiu decided to borrow money to build the village's first rural inn, offering food and lodging to travelers coming to the fields in springtime to see the blossoming rape flowers.
About 10 years ago, local authorities began suggesting farmers plant large areas of rape flowers for sightseeing, rather than for harvesting the plants for rapeseed oil, and the county had over 6,800 hectares of delicately planted flowers fields by 2011.
Although it is a relatively new scenic site, Wuyuan is now among the top 10 travel destinations for Chinese people.
Statistics from local tourism authorities showed that a total of 6.19 million travelers toured the county in 2011, and a preliminary forecast suggests that up to 2 million tourists will visit the county this spring as the blossoming period will last until mid-May.
Farmers like Qiu had long sensed that tourism would bloom and shifted from farming to running the rural inns that bring them concrete, measurable benefits.
Qiu successfully repaid his 3-million-yuan start-up loan in the first three years, and has since put more money into expanding the inn several times.
Qiu's inn, the biggest in the village of Likeng, currently has over 60 guest rooms and 80 dining tables.
His success inspired many other neighboring families to start their own home-style inns, which is now a dominant industry in the village as over half of its residents operate or work in inns.
Moreover, some villagers make and sell local specialties and handicrafts, while others serve as travel guides in their spare time -- all endeavors that bring more money into the village.
In Wuyuan, a county once dedicated to traditional agriculture, over 70,000 farmers, or 21 percent of the total population, currently hold jobs related to tourism, and the annual per capita income for rural residents in the county increased from 3,661 yuan in 2006 to 6,890 yuan in 2011.
The inns have become a major engine for rural income growth and could enhance employment, said Pan Dongjun, mayor of Shangrao, the prefectural city administering Wuyuan county.
The municipal government has promised to help set up 5,000 more rural inns in 2012, which will bring the total to 32,000, Pan said at the local legislative session in February.
"The ultimate beneficiary of the government's investment in tourism would be local farmers," said Qiu, adding that he has also planned for further investment.
Qiu said that he plans to erect a new building for his inn and expand the scale to create jobs for farmers from other villages