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Old 12-12-2004, 06:26 AM   #1
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China aims to be No. 1 destination

China aims to attract 210 million overseas visitors annually by 2020, more than double the current figure, a top tourism official said in Shanghai yesterday.

By the same year, China will become the world's No. 1 tourism destination in terms of the number of inbound travelers, and the fourth-largest country for outbound tourists, according to a forecast by the World Tourism Organization.

Revenue from the tourism sector, both from inbound and outbound travelers, is forecast to top US$300 billion, said Shen Huirong, an official with the China National Tourism Administration.
That figure is equivalent to 8-11 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Shen estimated that foreign exchange from international tourism will eventually reach US$58 billion, and domestic tourism will bring in US$250 billion.

Shen sketched out his robust views on the Chinese tourism market in a speech at the opening ceremony of the China International Travel Mart 2004 in Shanghai yesterday.

China's tourism sector has accelerated since the nation joined the World Trade Organization, Shen said.

The country now receives nearly 100 million tourists annually from overseas, producing US$20 billion in foreign exchange, according to Shen.

China's hotel industry has been fully opened, and almost all the top international hotel groups are now doing business in the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

In July 2003, the state tourism administration approved the first application for a wholly foreign-owned travel agency, fulfilling its commitment to the WTO four years ahead of schedule.

At present, there are five wholly overseas-owned travel agencies in China and 13 joint ventures. The administration has also encouraged China's big tourist enterprises "to go abroad."

By the end of this year, Chinese tour groups will be allowed to visit 63 countries and regions, Xinhua said.

And industry regulators have just signed agreements to authorize travel agencies to arrange group tours to go to two Carribean nations and three Latin American countries.

China's tourism industry was among the first sectors to undergo reforms. So far, it has attracted US$50 billion in foreign investment, accounting for about 11 percent of the total US$450 billion invested in all industries, according to the news agency.

Meanwhile, 2,900 exhibitors from 64 countries and regions are participating in Shanghai's tourism expo, which runs through Sunday.

The exhibitors include tourist authorities from home and abroad, travel companies and operators of scenic sites, representatives of hotels and resorts, as well as scholars specializing in tourism development and management.

The China International Travel Mart 2004 - the largest international tourism fair in Asia - has been held five times. Shanghai has hosted the event on three occasions and the other two fairs were in Kunming, Yunnan Province.

"It is a major step to develop China's inbound tourism, to increase foreign-exchange tourism revenues and to enhance our international status," said Shen, director of the tourism promotion and international exchange department under the national tourism bureau.
(Shanghai Daily)

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