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New tour destinations, new prosperous outlook
Chinese citizens will be able to visit 27 European countries on tourist visas starting from September 1.
All of these countries have just signed Approved Destination Status agreements with China.
To date, Chinese travel agencies can only organize visits to 26 nations around the globe - a number that will almost double from September.
Travelling abroad was only a dream for most Chinese a quarter of a century ago. But it is coming true for many more today thanks to a booming economy and more freedom and rights.
Last year, China's gross domestic product per capita surpassed US$1,000 for the first time, and the total foreign currency savings of Chinese residents topped US$90 billion.
The number of people who can afford to travel abroad is growing rapidly.
Simplified travel procedures are obviously another reason behind the huge increase in the number of overseas trips.
Since February 2002, people have no longer needed to produce invitation letters from overseas groups in order to get permission from local public security authorities to travel abroad.
Passports are available on demand and citizens can join outbound tourism groups.
According to the World Tourism Organization, China is among the top 10 nations in terms of outbound tourism.
From 1994 to 2003, the number of outbound Chinese tourists reached nearly 100 million. It grew an average of 13.87 per cent year-on-year during the period.
Last year, there were 20.2 million outbound Chinese tourists, despite the impact of the SARS crisis, which surpassed Japanese figures for the first time.
Chinese tourists were not allowed to travel to the European Union (EU) in the past except for Germany.
People had to travel on different types of visas, such as for business or family visits.
The lifting of the tourism visa restrictions by the EU countries shows their confidence in China's economy and in turn, the flow of Chinese visitors will inject new life into the bloc's tourism sector and economy.
Enhancing mutual understanding through opening up more countries to Chinese visitors will create benefits for all.