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Nation enjoys soaring overseas visitors
By Liu Weifeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-27 06:16

One in four South Koreans travelling abroad last year chose China as the destination, a third more than in 2002.

Almost 50 per cent more Russians came to China last year compared with two years earlier.

Visitors from the United States, Japan and other popular sources of tourists came streaming in, showing significant increases.

Yes, figures confirm that China is a hot tourist destination.

Comparisons were not made with 2003, when the nation was in the grip of the SARS epidemic, and data was distorted.

Unsurprisingly, experts predicted yesterday that inbound travel to China is expected to show robust growth this year - a 15 per cent rise in both arrivals and revenue.

The sector is likely to yield some US$30 billion thanks to an estimated influx of 110 million tourists, said Liu Deqian, a tourism expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The travel data and forecasts were contained in the Green Book of China's Tourism published by Social Sciences Academic Press and released yesterday.

Analysts attribute the encouraging figures to various factors:

The business opportunities provided by the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Expo in Shanghai.

A rise in the number of trade fairs and expos pulling in more business travellers.

The hosting of prestigious and popular sporting events like the Formula 1 in Shanghai, exhibition games by NBA teams and last weekend's Johnnie Walker Classic golf tournament in Beijing.

China's booming economy and stable society.

Residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, who have long dominated the inbound market, showed a dip last year compared with 2003. They still made up a whopping 70 per cent last year compared to 87.6 per cent the previous year. For statistical reasons, they are listed as overseas visitors.

Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States were the four countries sending the most tourists.

China received 3.33 million visitors from Japan last year, the largest number of foreigners and an increase of 13.97 per cent.

South Korea sent 2.84 million, up 33.92 per cent.

Russians accounted for 1.79 million, up 40.94 per cent.

The number of visitors from the United States, who made up the largest group from across the Pacific Ocean, was 1.3 million, a jump of 16.74 per cent.

China was last year listed as one of the world's most attractive destination countries by Travel Trade Gazette - Asia, a famed tourism publication.

But the travel isn't just one-way traffic, pointed out Zhang Guangrui, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

About 28.85 million Chinese went on foreign trips last year, up 42.7 per cent and the largest annual jump since the launch of outbound tourism in 1983.

It took the nation the nine years up to 2000 to generate the first 10 million outbound travellers, but only three years for the figure to double to 20 million in 2003.

(China Daily 04/27/2005 page2)

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