Creating a sustainable business model for a rural development
When Jim Spears bought a small village house in Mutianyu Village near the Great Wall he never expected how life would change for him and his wife Liang Tang. Retiring ten years ago, they decided to make the house their permanent home. There was considerable local attention at a foreigner moving into the village and not just for a weekend holiday home. The local authorities wanted Jim to be part of the community but also to think up ideas for development which could slow or reverse the trend of migration to urban areas.
Jim looked at sustainable tourism based on small refurbished units centered on an administrative central base. The concept of 'The Schoolhouse' emerged. With approval from the local community Jim and Liang Tang took over the former village schoolhouse, converting it into a guesthouse, restaurant and visitor centre based around sustainability. Staff are all recruited locally and food sourced locally. Several other properties were taken over, converted into small lodgings for visitors with The Schoolhouse acting as the business focus.
Jim and Liang's model of rural village development has attracted considerable attention bringing a regular stream of local, city and national leaders keen to hear from Jim his philosophy for rural sustainability and building preservation.
The project has been both an honour and challenge for Jim and Liang Tang.