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November 16, 2012

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World comes to city to lure China's tourists

SOUTH Korea and the southeast Asian countries of Thailand and Malaysia remain the most popular tourist destinations of local travelers, while African and American countries are stepping up efforts to attract city tourists, as was evident at the China International Travel Mart yesterday.

Japanese exhibitors, which usually host large-scale promotion campaigns at the annual event, did not appear this year due to territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands.

Thailand and South Korea, the top and No. 3 overseas destination of organized travelers from Shanghai last year, reported a big jump of Chinese tourists due to the dispute.

About 2.2 million Chinese tourists visited Thailand as of October, a surge of 42 percent from the same period last year, and many of them were from Shanghai, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which held promotions at the fair.

Over 80 percent are organized tourist groups, with Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket the most popular destinations.

China will certainly replace Malaysia as Thailand's No.1 source country of tourists this year, said Chaiwat Charoensuk, director and chief representative of the Shanghai Office of Tourism Authority of Thailand.

S. Korean tourism boom

The promotion booths of many Asian countries like South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and the Maldives were some of the most crowded.

South Korean exhibitors said the number of Chinese tourists to the east Asian country surpassed Japanese tourists in October, July and August for the first time in its history.

Tensions between China and Japan have simmered over the islands since the summer, when Japan said it was looking to buy the disputed islands. In late September, the National Tourism Administration of China warned Chinese tourists who were in Japan or were planning a trip to the country to be careful.

Major Shanghai travel agencies stopped organizing tours to Japan and suggested tourists make alternative plans due to the islands row.

An average 30 percent increase of Chinese visitors to South Korea has been witnessed this year, and it is expected that China will replace Japan as South Korea's No.1 source country of tourists on an annual basis next year or in 2014, said Seo YoungChoong, director of tourism services of the Korea Tourism Organization's Shanghai Branch.

Seo said South Korea is planning to make visa applications easier to attract more tourists from China and are promoting its less-known scenic destinations like Gangwon-do and Yosu.

Large-scale exhibitors

The United States, Russia and Taiwan are among the largest-scale exhibitors. A large number of US hotels like Aston Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii, travel agencies, duty-free shop operators and airline companies are all present at the fair.

Some new scenic spots which are relatively mysterious to local tourists also joined in the promotion campaigns. Iceland is usually combined with other three Northern Europe countries to form a tourism package, but it has started offering a "deep tourism" package of eight days. The northern lights, glacier and hot springs are some attractions.

Some East European countries such as the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Poland are hoping to win the favor of more Chinese tourists.

African countries are seldom visited by Chinese tourists, but they are eyeing the big market with intensified promotions.

Seychelles will launch direct flights in Hong Kong in February and set up tourism offices on China's mainland in 2013 to raise the country's awareness among local tourists, said Elsia Grandcourt, chief executive officer of Seychelles Tourism Board.

Some 3,000 Chinese tourists visited the country as of October.

There is still no schedule on when tourism to China's Xisha Islands in the South China Sea will be launched as infrastructure is not ready, Hainan Tourism Bureau officials said.


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