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Alliance to enhance tourism co-operation
By Zhao Bian
Updated: 2004-05-07 10:26

A more powerful tourism industry is expected to be forged in the eastern part of Northeast China thanks to a newly established regional tourism co-operation alliance, according to tourism officials and operators in the region.

The alliance, called Northeast China Tourism Regional Co-operation Organization, includes such regions as the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin City and Changbai Mountain Natural Reserve in Jilin Province, as well as Mudanjiang City and Jingbo Lake Tourism Resort in Heilongjiang Province.

The five regions are all in the eastern part of Northeast China.

The alliance is the result of half-a-year worth of negotiation and feasibility studies.

At a conference held earlier this year, tourism officials in the five regions signed a framework agreement and formed the organizing committee for the organization, marking the inauguration of this alliance.

Major objectives

To meet the challenges facing the tourism industry following China's entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the new body aims to integrate its resources in the eastern part of Northeastern China, form a free and open tourism market, and present competitive tourist routes.

The alliance is expected to help boost the development of the tourism industry for the regions, according to organizing committee chairman Zhang Wei, who is also head of Jilin City's tourism bureau.

"The five regions have rich tourism resources. However, in the past, the tourism industry has not been strong enough because the resources were not integrated," he added.

His opinion is shared by other tourism officials.

"The experiences of other regions in China, especially the provinces and cities in the Yangtze River Delta, which signed an agreement for tourism co-operation last year, prove that the sharing of resources is key to further developing the industry," said Lu Peng, vice-director of the administrative committee of the Jingbo Lake Tourist Resort.

In the near future, the five regions will further open the tourism market to each other by lifting all administrative limitations step by step, helping tourism businesses lower operational costs.

Meanwhile, each membership region will establish a special assistant mechanism to help firms from other regions. Also, an inter-regional supervision mechanism will be set up to regulate the tourism market and handle customer complaints.

The alliance agreement was hailed by industry insiders.

Li Kun, general manager of the Dongfang Travel Agency in Jilin City, said it will greatly benefit tourism operators and tourists.

"In the past, for example, we faced many obstacles doing business in other places. So we had to transfer our guests to local travel agencies, resulting in higher operational costs. And now we are allowed to do business freely in any place. A direct result is that tourists will save at least 10 per cent," he said.

Tourism attractions

The first initiative of the alliance is to jointly market two important tourist routes.

The first one, called an "ice and snow Shangri-la," includes attractions such as the wusong (an ice vapour frost on trees) in Jilin City, the Tianchi (Heavenly Pond) on Changbai Mountain, and many snow-capped forests, castles and ski resorts in the five regions.

The other, called "folk experiences in the one-mountain and two-lakes areas," showcases the colourful Korean culture in the Changbai Mountain, Jingbo Lake and Songhua Lake areas.

Because of its rich and unique tourism resources, the eastern part of Northeast China is said to be a major touring destination in the country.

Cheng Yuandong, director of the tourism bureau in the city of Mudanjiang, said that through the joint efforts of the five regions, the two routes are expected to become among the most valuable in China for winter tours and ecotourism.

Changbai Mountain, which extends from Heilongjiang to Jilin and Liaoning provinces, is the highest mountain in Northeast China and is well-known for its biodiversity. It is, as a result, an ideal ecotourism destination.

According to Zhuang Faren, vice-director of the tourism bureau in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, the Changbai Mountain, featuring mysterious virgin forests, gorgeous waterfalls and big lakes, is worshipped as a holy mountain by many ethnic groups in Northeast China. A prime example of the northern landscape, it offers a totally different experience from the mountains in the south.

Home to several ethnic groups including Korean, Han and Manchu residents, the eastern part of Northeast China presents to tourists the colourful ethnic cultures embodied in people's daily works, rituals, songs and dances.

The area borders Russia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, becoming an easy gateway for tourists to experience their exotic atmosphere.

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