Foreign ports lure travelers in search of new experiences

Updated: 2012-01-30 10:15

By Li Yao and Wu Yong (China Daily)

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Foreign ports lure travelers in search of new experiences

BEIJING / SHENYANG - China's week-long Spring Festival holiday, which ended on Saturday, brought the annual travel boom, with outbound trips a new favorite.

The National Holiday Tourism Office said on Saturday that more than 140,000 people left Shanghai to go abroad, up 20 percent year-on-year.

In Suzhou, Jiangsu province, 6,690 people went overseas, up 36 percent, the agency said.

The office, citing tourism authorities in South Korea, said 45,000 Chinese citizens visited that country during the holiday, up 30 percent year-on-year.

Wang Huan, 28, customer manager at an outbound travel agency in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, said Seoul and Jeju Island were the most popular destinations in South Korea, featuring shopping tours because of the cold weather.

A woman surnamed Liu who works at a foreign company in Shenyang went with her husband to Seoul from Jan 23 to 27. The trip cost 11,360 yuan ($1,790).

"Air fares and hotel rates were reasonable. Luxury goods from Europe or the US are 20 to 30 percent cheaper than in China. Cosmetics made in South Korea suit Chinese women and are quite affordable. Many shop assistants even speak Mandarin," Liu said.

Her only complaint was that shops didn't open until 10 am. She said that foreign travel was educational and enlightening.

"Many traditions are disappearing in China but are preserved in other countries. When I have a child, I will take them abroad to experience different cultures and lifestyles," she said.

Shen Zhangqi, sales director of a travel agency for cruises overseas, said cruise trips had become more popular, though prices went up 10 to 20 percent during the holiday.

Favorite destinations included the Southeast Asian islands, which cost at least 12,000 yuan a person, and the Mediterranean and Caribbean, which cost 40,000 to 50,000 yuan a person.

"Many passengers are high-end customers such as senior corporate managers. They have little free time through the year and want to enjoy some quality time and a luxury experience with their family during the Spring Festival," Shen said.

The Chinese are becoming more affluent, experienced travelers. They want to try new things, and they find cruises to be a relaxing experience, where they can enjoy fresh breezes and ocean views, he said.

Shen said the fatal accident of the Costa Concordia cruise ship in Italy worried some Chinese passengers.

"Some who had been on board a Costa cruise before might use another line next time," he said.

Fan Xuepeng, 28, who recently took a five-day cruise to Malaysia and Singapore with his girlfriend, was deeply satisfied with the experience and plans to try a different line every other year.

Fan and his girlfriend grew up in an inland city, Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province. The sea had great appeal to them. So did the chance to go slow and savor the days.

"It revolutionized my understanding of what makes a perfect trip. A typical trip in China is often exhausting because we rush to check out all the landmarks and go on a shopping binge," Fan said.

According to the National Holiday Tourism Office, domestic travel was also robust. Beijing had 8.27 million holiday visitors, generating revenue of 3.4 billion yuan, up 9.3 percent year-on-year.

Shanghai had about 3.14 million visitors, up 3.2 percent, with tourism revenue up 10.4 percent to 2.96 billion yuan.

Each day during the holiday, an average of 10,000 people visited the duty-free shop in Sanya, Hainan province.