China to spend $2.05 billion for massive restroom revamp

More than 10 billion yuan (S$2.05 billion) will be spent this year on improving toilet facilities at tourist attractions nationwide, according to the top tourism official.

The aim is to build 19,512 public restrooms and renovate another 6,685, Li Jinzao, head of the China National Tourism Administration, said on Saturday at a conference in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.

He said the departments responsible have been urged to use multiple channels to raise the funds needed to support the so-called toilet revolution, including bringing in private capital.

Shandong province, which built or renovated more than 3,900 public restrooms last year, and Zhejiang, Guangdong and Hunan provinces - more than 1,500 each - were listed as examples to follow, as they surpassed the target for last year.

Nationwide, 50,916 public toilets have been built or renovated in the past two years.

The target set by the central government in 2015 was 57,000 by the end of 2017.

He Zhongyou, vice-governor of Guangdong, a major tourist destination, said the province had constructed or reconstructed 3,101 toilets so far.

"The growth and improvement in facilities has helped the province further raise its reputation among tourists from home and abroad as well as greatly benefited residents," he said.

Yan Jianguo, general manager of China Everbright Real Estate, said his company is in talks with the governments of several provinces to build toilets and service centres at major scenic spots and places with large flows of people.

The company has been operating more than 30 such facilities at the Lushan Scenic Spot as well as other locations in Shandong since November.

"The toilets are free to tourists and local residents, but we earn a profit from selling snacks, tissues, coffee, tea and other beverages at the service centres, which are similar to those along expressways," Yan said.

"There's great potential for toilet construction. China is a big country for tourism and the industry is enjoying rapid growth, but the toilet sector is a bottleneck," he said.

"Tourists may not have to visit the restaurants and hotels at scenic spots, but most will at some point use the toilet."