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Swine flu keeps tourist groups close to home

CHINESE tour companies are promoting short, domestic trips for the upcoming three-day holiday.

The traditional Dragon Boat Festival begins today, when the Chinese eat sticky rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves and watch dragon boat matches to mark the death of Qu Yuan, one of China's most famous poets.

But fewer people are going abroad this year because of the swine flu situation.

China International Travel Service canceled trips to Europe and Japan after the flu broke out overseas. Bookings for tours to some countries where the flu was reported dropped by more than 50 percent against the same period last year, it said.

"No one has inquired about tours to Hong Kong or the Republic of Korea over the holiday, since flu cases were reported there," said Zhao Li, a clerk at Shandong Jiahua Culture International Travel Service. "A 70-member tour group due to arrive in Hong Kong and Macau on May 26 has decided to postpone the tour until June."

Wang Jiachen, general manager of Shandong Airlines International Travel Agency, said fears were also affecting long-distance domestic travel.

"Some people from the southern city of Guangzhou had plans to travel to Jinan (the provincial capital of Shandong Province), but now we have to cancel the trips because of fears of the flu," he said.

Wang Chunsheng, an official at the Shandong Provincial Tourism Bureau, said: "These fears would not last long, as the government has been controlling the spread of the virus strictly. The probability of a full-blown pandemic is very low," he said.


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