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China approves tour groups to United States
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Chinese travel agencies will be allowed from next year to organize tour groups to the United States, which gained the Chinese government's approved destination status on Tuesday.


China National Tourism Administration director Shao Qiwei and U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez signed a memorandum marking the new status, which could see about 579,000 Chinese visitors to the U.S. annually by 2011.


The agreement was announced at the 18th Sino-U.S. Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) and is expected to be implemented in the spring of 2008.


"Today's agreement will open a large and growing market for the U.S. travel and tourism industry," said Gutierrez. "This creates positive economic benefits for the United States and strengthens the relationship between our nations."


Tourism cooperation between two nations is developing rapidly. The number of U.S. visitors to China reached 1.71 million last year, up 10 percent from 2005.


The memorandum followed the declaration signed by China and the United States to launch formal negotiations to facilitate Chinese group leisure travel to the United States during the second Strategic Economic Dialogue meeting held in Washington in May.


The Chinese government has given the status to 132 nations and regions and more than 34 million Chinese traveled abroad last year.


(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2007)

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