Chinese travellers abroad will have four new countries to select as destinations beginning June 10.
According to the China National Tourism Administration, China has reached agreements with Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Sultanate of Brunei to permit travel within their borders by Chinese citizens in organized tours.
China Travel Service and China Southern Airlines plan to organize the first trip to two of the new countries - an eight-day group tour in Vietnam and Cambodia, that will start on June 15.
In past years, Chinese citizens could only travel by bus near the border areas between China and Viet Nam and Myanmer. They were not allowed to cross over the border.
China has now approved 15 countries as tourism destinations, including Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Discussions with European and American countries are still in the pipeline.
Because of its huge population, China has attracted the attention of tourist administrations in a number of other countries, who see it as a massive potential market.
"The battle has already begun for the world to attract Chinese tourists," Francesco Frangialli, secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization, said during a visit to China in March.
Experts point to China's skyrocketing economy as the reason for all the interest in Chinese tourists, who now have enough disposable income to travel abroad. In 2000, China's gross national product (GDP) surpassed US$1,000 billion for the first time, with personal bank deposit savings rising to US$846 billion.
"Switzerland's heavenly views are not far from you," reads one billboard on the Third Ring Road in Beijing. It features pictures of mountains and skiers.
How far away is Switzerland from ordinary Chinese people? "As China develops its economy and strengthens cooperation with Europe, we believe Switzerland will become a favourite tourist destination of Chinese people," said Zhang Wenjia, chief representative in China for Switzerland Tourism.
Switzerland is just one of the promoters actively courting China's future tourists.
To aid their efforts, the Chinese government has begun encouraging Chinese citizens to travel abroad.
Jorg Wuttke, chairman of the German Chamber of Commerce, has devoted himself to Sino-German economic cooperation. He said it is a long-term strategy among all countries to strive to attract Chinese tourists.
"We are working all out for a tourism agreement to ensure the legal rights of tourists and to seek cooperation between tourist agencies after China's entry into the World Trade Organization," said Xu Shengli, a representative in China for the German National Tourism Office.
France, Austria, and the state of Hawaii in the United States have also sent people to lobby for cooperation with China on tourism. The number of countries like these is on the rise.
(China Daily 05/31/2001)