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Liquor gives spirit to Chinese town

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-08-02 14:54

Maotai Township, a remote town tucked away in southwest China's Guizhou Province, is drawing tourists thanks to China's "national liquor."

The sorghum-based spirit produced by Kweichow Moutai Co., Ltd. is China's top brand of baijiu, or "white alcohol." The Guizhou-based brand has long been popular for gifts, and is served at official occasions and state banquets.

The liquor signifies luxury in China. One bottle of Moutai can sell for more than 1,000 yuan (150 U.S. dollars). Last year, the brand saw its sales revenues rise by 4 percent year on year from January to November.

The liquor's reputation has not only generated big bucks for the company, but also transformed its birthplace in Maotai Township. Local authorities have rolled out a variety of measures in recent years to make the once hectic town in Guizhou Province more attractive to tourists.

For tourist Liu Chengxiang, the small town of fewer than 50,000 people was once a mess.

"I remember there was a lousy rural market, where vendors were hawking their goods," Liu said. "I came here in admiration of the Moutai culture, but found myself in a chaotic place."

Experts have blamed bad town planning.

The town covers an area of five square kilometers, with the Moutai liquor distilleries taking up three-fifths of the area. Maotai Township has an estimated 49,000 registered residents, with about 15,000 living in distillery areas.

The distillery district hasn't helped the town's tourism development, with some visitors mocking it with the saying: "Moutai liquor is aromatic, but Maotai town is smelly."

"In the past, tourists were unsatisfied with the accommodation here," said township head Luo Xiaojun. "In recent years, we have tried to incorporate the Moutai culture with tourism to draw tourists."

The local government began moving residents from the distillery areas in 2010. About 25,000 people will be relocated to make more space for the liquor industry's development.

Local authorities have pumped lots of money into building infrastructure and improving the environment. The township now has beautiful scenery, good streets for walking and historical features.

On the bustling Yangliu Street, for example, a Moutai Liquor Museum has opened to explain what makes Maotai so unique, including climate, water resources, soil, raw materials and distilling expertise. The museum also allows tourists to order genuine Moutai liquor online.

Since the museum opened in May, it has attracted thousands of visitors, according to the local government.

A huge distillery-centered leisure and entertainment complex is also under construction. Located near a river, it drew an investment of one billion yuan. It will feature hotels, museums, bars, and even ceramics workshops. Construction began in 2015 and part of it is already open to the public.

A baijiu-themed performance will also debut around the National Day holiday this year, authorities said.

"We will continue to improve the tourism infrastructure in Maotai to cater to the needs of tourists," said Luo Xiaojun.

"We hope to make Maotai Township China's Bordeaux in the future," said Zhang Yihao, a local Party official.

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