NANNING, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- As the winter chill bites, thousands of people are flocking to a south China island to get away from the bitter cold, helping prop up local economic growth.
"Many of my fellow fishermen have chosen to open inns over fishing thanks to the number of tourists," said Liu Lin, a fisherman-turned-hotel-owner on Weizhou Island of Beihai City in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
"Houniaoren" or "migratory people" are frequent visitors to the island in winter because of its warm temperatures and breathtaking landscape. They make up 65 percent of visitors to the volcanic island.
There are now more than 30 hotels on the island, compared to a mere four a decade ago.
Liu's hotel is a family business. Established in 2011 with his four brothers, the hotel not only provides accommodation, but also kitchens, where travelers can cook their own food.
Self-catering accommodation is popular among lodgers because they get to experience the lifestyle of fishermen, while not being overcharged, Liu said.
Zhao Bin, from northeastern Jilin Province, is on holiday in Weizhou. As well as sunshine and fresh air, he said he enjoys bargaining with vendors in the bustling fish market. "We can buy whatever we want, and then cook it in the hotel, which is fun," he said.
Zhao is among an increasing number of tourists that are helping fuel the economic engine on the small island.
According to official statistics, tourist figures surged 46.5 percent to 573,000 in Weizhou last year, with total tourism revenue reaching 370 million yuan (61.05 million U.S. dollars). Local fishermen's annual income are now close to 30,000 yuan, compared to a little over 2,000 yuan in 2001.
According to the local tourism administration committee, within the first four days of the week-long lunar New Year holiday, which ended on Thursday, at least 22,000 tourists visited the island.
But local authorities in Beihai remain cautious about the swarming travelers.
Weizhou is grappling with problems like traffic jams, litter and water pollution, said Yi Qiubo, captain of Weizhou's traffic police brigade. "Inadequate transportation facilities are our biggest headache," Yi said.
The local government is spending on road construction, a hospital and on improving the island's waterworks. A project to treat garbage and sewage water is also under construction, Yi said.