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Tourists flocking in, bringing wealth
By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-23 00:44

China's tourism industry enjoyed robust growth in the first 10 months of this year, according to statistics released by the National Tourism Administration.

China received 89.79 million tourists on the mainland in the first 10 months of this year, up 20.34 per cent year-on-year. That was an 11.09 per cent increase over the same period over 2002.

Among tourists, 13.84 million were from overseas countries, up 52.66 per cent year-on-year; 55.03 million were Hong Kongers, up 14.68 per cent; 17.83 million were from Macao, up 15.63 per cent; and 3.08 million arrived from Taiwan, up 39.41 per cent.

The top five countries on a list of those that witnessed the fastest growth in tourists entering China in the same 10-month period included India, Russia, the Republic of Korea, Australia and Singapore with a growth rate of 45.32, 40.96, 31.93, 27.28 and 27.16 per cent, respectively.

The administration said foreign currency income from the tourism sector in the surveyed time period was estimated at US$19.26 billion, which is up 37.45 per cent and represents 14.08 per cent in additional income over the same period in 2002.

And 49.79 per cent of the tourism exchange revenue comes from overseas tourists, 26.89 per cent from Hong Kong, 9.81 per cent from Macao and 14.01 per cent from Taiwan.

China's inbound tourist arrivals set a new record in 2002, when China ranked fifth in the world in terms of both overnight tourist arrivals and tourism income in foreign exchange.

In 2003, however, Chinese tourism suffered a heavy blow due to the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which resulted in a sharp reduction in visitors to China.

In 2003, the tourist arrivals totalled 91.66 million, a decrease of 6 per cent from the previous year.

After that disaster, the Chinese Government adopted a series of measures to reinvigorate the sector.

"China's tourism is now in a good period," said Qi Shanhong, a professor of economics from Nankai University's Department of Tourism.

"Fragile as it seems to be, tourism has an ability of bouncing back from disasters," Qi said. "That's because travel is a basic spiritual need of human beings, which has to be satisfied from time to time. The need to travel is always there. The recovery of China's tourism is just a normal reflection of this economic rule.

"Meanwhile, as a country enjoying fast economic growth and stability, China has an advantage in attracting international tourists, especially business travellers who want to come and understand China better," Qi said.

Qi indicated the upward trend will likely last.

"I'm very optimistic about the future," Qi said. "Tourism is not only a source of national revenue but also a very important platform for cultural communication between the Chinese people and the rest of the world."

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