Chinese Dream of Antarctic Travel Moves Closer

The faraway icy Antarctic region has attracted global tourists for a long time. And for curious Chinese travelers, going to the Antarctic may not be just a dream for much longer.

"Currently Chinese citizens cannot go to the Antarctic as they please. But I believe within three years, our government will seriously think about this issue. China is capable of supporting Antarctic travel," said Zhang Zhanhai, deputy director of the Chinese Antarctic and Arctic Administration (CAA).

More than 10,000 people worldwide visit the Antarctic each year,1,000 to 2,000 of whom drop in China's Great Wall scientific research station there.

Some years ago Chinese travel agencies approached the CAA to discuss the possibility of organized trips to the Antarctic. Due to the lack of relevant regulations, the discussions yielded no result at the time, said Jia Genzheng, an official with the State Oceanic Administration.

Currently, China is drafting a regulation on activities at the Antarctic. The draft regulation is expected to be submitted to theState Council next year. Once approved, the regulation will provide the base for Antarctic tourism, said Zhang.

The most convenient way for Chinese travelers to reach the Antarctic is to fly via North America to Chile or Argentina and take a ship from there to their destination.

In the past 20 years, China has sent 3,000 people on 18 exploratory teams to the Antarctic, including journalists and contributing business people Each paid 80,000 yuan (nearly 10,000 US dollars) for the trip. This kind of activity would resume in the future, said Jia.

( Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2002)