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Travel agencies upbeat over plans for US opening to Chinese tourists
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Chinese travel agencies are expecting the policies following the Sino-US memorandum of understanding (MOU) on tourism to facilitate their business while being optimistic about the future market.


Chinese will be able to travel to the United States in groups on tourist visas, according to the MOU signed on Tuesday. Currently, the United States issues only business visas to Chinese.


"Everything will be in place only when we know how the MOU will be implemented," said a manager with China International Travel Service (CITS), China's biggest travel service, who refused to give her name.


The CITS is preparing by contacting U.S. counterparts, she told Xinhua Wednesday, "Some U.S. travel agencies are coming to us as well."


Most travel agencies interviewed plan to promote tours linking Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego and Hawaii, at an average cost of 25,000 yuan (3,351 US dollars) per person.


"Although very inviting, the U.S. tour will keep some potential travelers away because of the tight visa interview procedure and the comparatively high expense," said Liu Yanwen, manager of U.S. section in China Travel Service (CTS), China's second largest travel service.


The European Union does not require visa interviews for tourists in groups. A tour covering 12 European countries costs about 16,000 yuan (2,162 U.S. dollars).


The transport cost in Europe was also lower than that in the United States, Liu said.


"Many Chinese people are curious about America as they are already familiar with it through Hollywood movies. So I am quite optimistic about the U.S. travel market," she said.


Liu expected that the U.S. side would loosen the visa requirements for Chinese tourists in groups.


The U.S. Department of Commerce forecast that the number of Chinese tourists will reach 579,000 by 2011, up from 320,000 last year, according to the China Daily report on Wednesday.


(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2007)

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