Tourists to pour into China

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-19 07:28

China can expect to receive 24 million foreign travelers this year, up from 22 million last year, said a top tourism official.

And the number of outbound travelers is expected to increase by 10 percent this year to 37.4 million.

Shao Qiwei, head of the State Tourism Administration, told a working conference in Jinan, Shandong Province, yesterday that the country would organize more promotions overseas to support the development of inbound tourism and open up more to the world.

He said the administration would explore markets including Europe, North America, Australia, Russia and India, and strengthen promotions in neighboring countries.

"In addition, we will begin to explore potential markets such as South America, the Middle East and Africa," he said.

Two of the highlights of the overseas promotion this year are the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the World Expo in Shanghai in the year 2010.

"We will cooperate with Hong Kong and Macao to promote the Olympic Games and other tour routes, with both regions as stops," he said.

The official also urged major international tourism businesses to enter China's tourism industry this year, an area covered by China's membership in the World Trade Organization.

The government will lift restrictions on foreign-funded travel services looking to set up branches in China on July 1. Foreign travel agencies will need to have the same amount of registered capital as domestic agencies.

"We would like to welcome foreign capital, as well as funds from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, for investment in the domestic tourism industry," he said.

Allowing in more foreign investment would improve China's whole competitiveness in tourism, and domestic operators should be prepared for the challenge, he said.

China is the largest outbound tourism market in Asia. Statistics show that 34 million Chinese traveled overseas last year. Hong Kong was the most popular destination.

Last year, 15 countries and regions opened their doors to Chinese tourists. To date, Chinese travelers can visit 132 destinations.

With the number of outbound tourists on the rise, the administration will strengthen efforts to encourage travelers to watch their behavior while travelling this year.

The administration published a guidebook last year for people traveling to foreign countries, urging them to help maintain the country's image.

(China Daily 01/19/2007 page3)

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