A gite in China: French hospitality checks in at Anhui water town
Huangshan (黄山), or Yellow Mountain, is among the most popular Chinese tourist destinations for international travelers.
But just 40 kilometers north of the UNESCO World Heritage site, an untapped Anhui water town has recently stolen a substantial slice of limelight from its big brother.
Tangmo (唐模), a four-square-kilometer water town whose name means “the model of Tang Dynasty,” saw the opening of Gîtes de France's first licensed hotel outside Europe last month.
First Gîtes de France hotel outside Europe
The 10-room establishment, which is the first phase of Tangmo International Countryside Hotel (TICH, 唐模国际乡村酒店), occupies a restored century-old Huizhou-style residential building, with room types ranging from standard doubles to deluxe suites.
But unlike most gîtes in France, which are privately owned country houses, the two-story property is a fully serviced hotel owned by the local travel authority, Anhui Tourism Group (ATG).
According to Patrick Farjas, vice president of the National Federation of Gîtes de France, the company was approached by the Anhui authority for tourism cooperation, and licensing a state-run hotel "was the best choice based on China’s economical and political environment."
“The features of this first guesthouse [in China] correspond to the criteria of the Gîtes de France,” noted Farjas, who attended TICH’s inauguration ceremony in Tangmo last month.
“Moreover, the village of Tangmo is charming," added Farjas. "I am convinced that it will attract a lot of tourists.”
The second phase of the TICH has already been planned. It will cover approximately 6,000 square meters and is scheduled to break ground in March in adjacent buildings.
More on CNNGo: Xinshi: A forgotten Chinese water town
Gîtes de France is a guesthouse rental network that provides travelers with the opportunity to stay in rural cottages. The company currently represents 55,000 licensed holiday cottages, mostly in France.
International travelers are yet to book the Tangmo gîte through Gîtes de France's official website.
The booking function and hotel introduction page are expected to go up after the second phase is completed by the end of 2012, according to TICH's marketing director Niu Shouyi (牛守义).
China-France countryside tourism collaboration
The newly unveiled Tangmo Hotel is part of the government-initiated tourism collaboration between Huangshan city and the French Tourist Office dating back to 2007.
The French authority will not only share their knowledge on restoring and managing historic village attractions, but also promote Huangshan’s countryside tourism to Europe.
In addition, the local hospitality staff will be trained either in Huangshan or France’s Franche-Comté region by French experts.
“Tangmo is a typical Huizhou-style historic village," said Yao Yalan (姚雅兰) of Huangshan Tourism Bureau. "It’s maintained complete tourism resources but its tourism is yet to be as mature as [the nearby] Xidi village and Hongcun village.”
In addition to the Tangmo International Countryside Hotel, an international bicycle racing competition is also on the drawing board, which is set to be jointly organized by Union Cycliste Internationale and a Chinese authority.
More on CNNGo: Zhenyuan: Best bits of China in one town
Dating back 1,800 years, Tangmo water town received a total of 100,000 visitors last year.
Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin praised it as “one of the world’s most beautiful villages” in 2010 during his visit to the area.
Tangmo is 16 kilometers from Huangshan Railway Station and 20 kilometers from Huangshan Airport. A taxi ride from Huangshan city center to Tangmo costs around RMB 30.
Tangmo International Countryside Hotel, inside Tangmo water town, next to Shui Jie 唐模景区内, 近水街, +86 21 559 354 8888, nightly rates: from RMB 600, www.tangmocun.com.cn