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Foreign tourist: I feel safe here
( 2003-10-03 10:19) (Xinhua)

"I think it is safe here. There is no problem about that," said British traveler John Fielden, resting comfortably on a soft chair by the window of a restaurant on Fuwai road, downtown Beijing.

A retired engineer from Warwick University of Britain, John was really tired after walking around the city all day long on Thursday and was ready to have some dinner.

About 10 days ago, John and his wife Gill Fielden arrived at Beijing with other group members organized by SAGA Holidays of Britain. They then visited a couple of well-known scenic spots at Wuhan, Xi'an, Chongqing and the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River.

"I love traveling around in this nation. To me, China is in the top three of all the places I have ever been," said John.

Like all the other foreign tourists, John Fielden says the main reason for visiting China is the beautiful scenery and unique culture here. Gill was also satisfied with the service of travel agencies and hotels.

"The service is first class and people here are very kind," she said.

The Chinese tourism and food sector was hit hard by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in April and May. As a result, many Chinese people stopped traveling or having meals outside their homes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lifted travel advisories against all the affected areas in the Chinese mainland from June 24. After that, overseas tourists gradually began to return to the nation.

A retired engineer and travel lover, Brian Wakeford had just arrived at the Three Gorges in May when the epidemic situation got worse and he had to leave.

"That's why I am here again," he said.

This time, however, Brian feels no effect from SARS on his happy journey, but on the other hand he complained that the traffic was bad because there were so many cars compared with the situation in 1993 when he first came to China.

Malcom Fairman, tourist guide from SAGA Holiday, said they were here due to cooperation with China Youth Travel Co. Ltd (CYT). The cooperation started over a decade ago and was very fruitful.

Li Xuemei, CYT tourist guide, said the relationship with SAGA was stable and successful even during the SARS period.

According to Li, her department dealing with European business will receive about seven or eight tourist groups in October, a significant decrease from last year when they had usually about 20. Also, each group has no more than 20 members, while the usual level is over 40, she said.

"But the good thing is they are at least here and I believe more will come later," she said optimistically. A seasoned practitioner, she expected a full recovery in the industry next year.

According to the latest statistics from Beijing Tourism Bureau, as of the end of August, the city accommodated 970,000 overseas travelers, down 50.1 percent from last year.

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