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May 11, 2013

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Easier visa doubles number of local tourists to US

THAILAND remained the most popular overseas destination among Shanghai travelers last year, while more local people traveled further and longer, according to a report released yesterday on outbound tourism.

Thailand was followed by Japan and South Korea and the US finished fourth and France fifth, the first time those two countries ranked in the top five.

The report said a new trend is emerging as Shanghai tourists are traveling further and longer than before, with Europe and the US being the most popular destinations for these travelers. The report also said more travelers are taking trips during non-peak seasons.

In 2012, some 102,825 Shanghai tourists in organized groups visited the US, up 101 percent from the previous year.

The report said the rise was due to a much easier visa application procedure and the introduction of one-year, multiple-entry visas.

The report was released during the 2013 Outbound Tourism Forum at the Shanghai World Travel Fair. It was compiled by the organizers of the fair based on figures provided by the Shanghai Tourism Bureau and tourism authorities in Beijing as well as Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces.

The number of organized travelers from Shanghai to Thailand surged 74 percent last year to 331,828, accounting for almost one fourth of outbound trips, the report said.

Thailand and South Korea proved more popular in the last quarter of 2012 due to China's ongoing territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

Meanwhile, the Chinese comedy film "Lost in Thailand" contributed to the rise of tourists to Thailand, said Xu Fan, a member of the UN's World Tourism Organization.

South Korea proved popular among travelers who had originally planned to visit Japan but changed their minds while the "Gangnam Style" hit song and shopping allure may also explain why it was such a strong attraction, Xu said.

Overall, Japan had a 76 percent increase in tourists via organized tour groups from Shanghai last year. The rise was attributed to a low number of travelers in 2011, when the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami.

About 82 percent of organized tourists in Shanghai visited Asian countries last year mainly because they are closer and visa applications are easier, according to the report.

Still, fewer Shanghai travelers visited Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines last year.


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