US urged to open up to Chinese tourists

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-03-21 07:00

China wants the United States to open its doors to Chinese visitors as soon as possible, a senior tourism official said yesterday.

"Asking the United States to open its tourist market will be a topic for the China-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade this year," said Zhang Xiqin, deputy director of the China National Tourism Administration at a press conference.

So far, 132 countries and regions have become tourist destinations for Chinese travellers. However, neither the United States nor Canada is on the list, as both prohibit entry to travel agency groups.

A Beijing-based travel agency manager told China Daily that the US is clearly a country that doesn't think "the more tourists the better".

Quoting statistics from the 1990s, which stated that the US received between 30 million and 50 million tourists a year, the agent said: "The country does not welcome too many tourists." He also called it "an arrogant country".

Readers' Comments:

David: As an American, i am completely for opening up the tourism industry to chinese. This way, Americans can know more about chinese and chinese can know more about americans...
John: As an ordinary american national, I agree with David. I don't think opening the sightseeing market to Chinese will create a big problem...

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While the agent said he appreciated the US' need to safeguard against illegal immigration and terrorism, he said that was no reason to stifle the growing enthusiasm among Chinese people to explore the world.

According to statistics from the tourism administration, 34.5 million Chinese traveled overseas last year and the number is growing by double digits annually.

"In 2007, the figure is likely to hit 40 million," said Zhang.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization has estimated that China will become the No 1 tourist destination and be the fourth largest outbound market by 2015. It had previously said that this mark would not be reached until 2020.

The rapid growth of the outbound market has brought with it several problems, such as tourists not receiving the tour packages they expected or being forced to go on unwanted shopping trips.

In an effort to regulate the market and reduce disputes over contracts, the tourism administration, along with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, has spent the past year drafting a standard contract for outbound travel.

The contract provides clear definitions for disputable terms, such as travel expenses and force majeure, and makes clear the rights and responsibilities of both tourists and agencies.

For tourists, the contract rules that a detailed itinerary must be provided as evidence with any complaint.

Tour agencies, in the meantime, are required to pay damages within five working days, and should gain tourists' written agreement before transferring them to another agency.

Lu Ying, a 30-year-old kindergarten teacher, said: "I hope the new form will protect consumers from being cheated, but we'll have to wait and see."

Tour agencies will have the right to refuse travel to customers with certain health conditions and be able to claim damages of up to 90 percent of the tour's total cost in the event of a customer breaking the contract.

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