Shandong gets the spotlight in New York

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An advertising trailer of Shandong Tourism Bureau launched at Times Square in New York on Sunday.

Members of the tourism industry in Shandong province visited New York Monday to help promote further US interest in one of China's lesser-known tourism destinations.

Delegates from various China-based travel companies took part in a forum on Shandong province at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Monday. Called Friendly Shandong, it was co-hosted by members of the Shandong Provincial Tourism Administration and Sino-American Friendship Association (SAFA), and touched on topics such as history, culture, leisure and geography.

Shandong, which is home to a population of almost 100 million people, boasts some of the most picturesque landscapes in China. As a result, tourism is one of the biggest industries there.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing the eastern coastal province is getting the word out.

Jin Jiang, deputy general manager of the China Shandong Travel Service, believes that further advertising for China as a tourist destination is priority number one.

"Firstly, we need to do more promotion all over the world," Jiang told China Daily on Monday. "It makes a difference in the conversation because people don't know Shandong."

Second, is the need to make it easier to get to. "We don't have as many international flights into Shandong, but with improvements in transportation we will be able to get more business," Jiang said.

Wang Rongguo, an official with the Shandong Association of Tourism Industry, pointed to Shandong's mild-mannered reputation as a big selling point for tourism to the province.

"Shandong is very famous around China for its hospitality," Wang said Monday through a translator. "If it's your first time in China, Beijing and Shanghai are first, but it's very convenient to drop in on Shandong via high-speed rail or a flight. Every year we have a special ceremony to celebrate Confucius - the symbol of Shandong."

The most celebrated center of interest in Shandong province is the city of Qufu, which is where the great Chinese philosopher Confucius was born.

Three ancient architectural complexes in the city of Qufu have been designated world cultural heritage sites. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed the Confucius family mansion, the Temple of Confucius and the Cemetery of Confucius as heritage sites in 1994.

Other popular spots in Shandong province include Mount Tai, one of the five most famous mountains in China, as well as the capital city of Jinan, also known as the City of Springs.

American travelers might also be familiar with the city of Qindao, home of Tsingtao Brewery, China's second-largest beer maker and the top selling Chinese brand in the US.

Shandong and US officials will take part in the 2014 Times Square New Year's Eve Countdown Celebration, according to a news release, marking the first time Shandong province will represent China in New York on New Year's Eve.

Ying Liu, a translator with China International Travel Service (Qingdao), said Shandong has a lot to offer as a tourist destination.

"I guess not enough information has been shared because Shandong is a lovely place with great people," Liu said. "It has a really relaxed personality and they make you feel like you're at home. Shandong has everything you want, and of course, the seafood is really good too."

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