Toilet tour

Toilet tour

It may not be the most glamorous aspect of travel, but when you got to go, you got to go. Yang Feiyue looks at the efforts to improve restroom facilities in tourist destinations nationwide.

A dozen mops and plastic trash cans placed at the entrance of a drug store in Shandong's Jinan city were given for free to local stores, gas stations, restaurants and government buildings that allowed tourists to use their restrooms.

"We established a toilet association in November 2012 to meet the needs of tourists," says Yin Jiewei from the urban management bureau's social mobilization department.

Now, more than 500 public units have joined the association.

"The elderly who exercise at the Daming Lake scenic spot frequent our toilets," says Wang Fan, manager at Shunfeng Fat Cow hotpot restaurant, a member of the association.

As complaints about the condition of public restrooms grew, the China National Tourism Administration initiated a campaign early this year to develop and upgrade restrooms nationwide.

A total of 33,500 modern public restrooms are expected to appear in tourist sites, transportation hubs and entertainment facilities in the next three years, the administration says.

As a result, a wave of public restroom development is now happening.

"We have toilets built at 300 - meter intervals at major scenic spots, such as Daming Lake and Baotu Spring," says Qin Guofen, deputy director of Jinan urban management bureau.

At tourist spots where toilet facilities are inadequate for the numbers of visitors, mobile toilet units have been erected, Qin says.

Now, a total of 220 such mobile units are in use in Jinan.

A five-star restroom has 12 units and 16 urinals for men at the Daming Lake scenic spot, and 15 units for women. It features walls and floors paved with clean, white ceramic tiles and has skylights too.

"I work from 8 am to 5 pm and take one day off each week," says Wu Chuanshui, 60.

He's been working at the restroom for 12 years.

No water pooling on the floor, no excrement and no smells are the results of his efforts.

"I'll go and check from time to time to ensure a clean environment," he says.

In Zhejiang, the public restroom is nicely equipped and scented at the Naked Retreats, a high-end rural leisure facility in Deqing county of Huzhou city.

It has two toilet units and features boulder-made walls and modern washing equipment.

"We apply detergent every time after three guests have used the restroom," says Yuan Jinmu, a toilet cleaner in his 60s at the resort.

Other public facilities dotted across the 102 rural leisure sites clustering in Deqing are all regularly cleaned, and sewage pipelines have been developed to ensure sanitation, says Jiang Ping, an official in charge of a section of the cluster.

Restrooms at the Tiger Hill scenic spot in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, blend in well with the lush green landscape, with white walls and gray tiles. Toilet paper is offered for free.

The newly built restroom at the Jinji scenic spot has a stylish look and good ventilation.

Each has 11 units for women and some five units for men, including special facilities for the disabled and children, says Zhao Pengcheng, deputy manager of the scenic spot.

The area welcomes 500 people on weekdays and from 1,000 to 1,500 people on weekends, he says.

Zhao says there are five toilet blocks in the neighborhood.

"We have received no complaints from tourists," Zhao says.

The good environment is thanks to the hard work of the cleaners.

The questionable behaviour of some tourists has made things more difficult for toilet cleaners.

"They tear off more rolls of toilet paper than necessary and throw them around," says Jiang Shuihu, project supervisor at the Jinji scenic spot.

Luxury restrooms can be found at a Western-style shopping centre in the Yangchenghu scenic spot in Suzhou.

Leather sofas line the walls of the foyer of five toilets in the area. Marble walls and shiny white toilet facilities create a modern feel.

Zhang Xiaoli, deputy director of Jiangsu tourism bureau's planning and development division, says the local government has encouraged commercial tenants to allow tourists to use their restrooms.

"Generally speaking, commercial tenants will show visitors the way to their toilets on request," he says.

Suzhou Wuzhong Taihu scenic spot even has bathing facilities.

Many visitors will hire bikes to cycle 25 kilometers along the Taihu Lake.

"Cyclists can come, take a break and shower for free," says Shen Fangjie, a worker at the scenic spot.

However, it will take a long time to realise full coverage of modern restrooms, with development remaining inconsistent.

A public toilet at a tourist distribution centre in Deqing's Mogan mountain scenic spot looks rather shabby in comparison with those at the neighbouring rural leisure sites.

The toilet has a strong smell of disinfectant and the lights are not connected.

The three unassuming urinals and three enclosures are sort of clean.

There's only one cleaner maintaining the facility.

"The cleaner works more like a volunteer and receives several hundred (yuan) a month," says Bai Jianming, a project manager at the centre.

He claims the restroom will be cleaned after a bus group of tourists has used it.

Utility damage is a major headache.

"The flush buttons have borne the brunt of impatient tourists continually pushing them if there is not enough water," he says.

Although there are many things that are left to be desired, tourists are largely satisfied with the progress in restroom conditions.

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