Cover Story

China calling

Updated: 2011-07-08 10:47

By David Bartram (China Daily European Weekly)

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China calling
A group of European tourists visiting Sanya, Hainan province. China plans to develop tourism as a strategic pillar industry. [Provided to China Daily] 

"China is full of attractions; it has a huge variety, which goes from sea to mountain and cultural destinations. It is a culture that is not just intangible, but tangible, from its food down to its ancient legacy," Rifai said. "The country knows how to welcome tourists. In the future, China will win second place and then first place. China is doing things very well."

Tourism: Remarkable growth in revenue

China calling

The vast majority of China's incoming tourists are from Asia. In 2010, South Koreans topped the list, making more than 4 million trips to the Chinese mainland. Noticeably absent from the top 10 was a single European country.

The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) is beginning to take steps to address this balance. In February this year, the CNTA launched a major advertising campaign in Paris, plastering buses with images of the Great Wall and dragons.

It was hoped that the campaign would build upon already strong tourism links with France - currently the most visited tourism destination in the world. Even as Europe's economy struggled out of recession, more than half a million French tourists visited China in 2010.

The CNTA is also hoping to emphasize the diversity of holiday opportunities available across China. Once the preserve of wealthy, middle aged professionals, the range of European tourists visiting China has rapidly increased in recent years.

Saga, a leading UK company providing holidays to the over-50s, now offers a range of tours to China including an 11-day holiday that takes in Beijing, Xi'an and Shanghai, as well as a cruise along the Yangtze River.

"China holidays are popular with our customers," says Carl Catterall, travel communications manager at Saga. "The over-50s tend to be looking to travel to adventurous destinations, and we have seen a recent growth in our travel to China."

But it is at the other end of the age spectrum that China is seeing some of its more remarkable tourism growth - in the form of low-budget European students in search of an adventure.


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