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China, Russia Expecting More Tourists During Year of China
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Naming the official opening ceremony of the second Moscow International Trade Fair for Travel and Tourism as "China Day" attaches a far-reaching significance to tourism cooperation between the two countries, a top Chinese tourism official said.

"Tourism can promote understanding between peoples, regardless of their different nationalities, complexions, languages and background," Shao Qiwei, director of China's National Tourism Administration, told Xinhua in an interview.

"As the first of many important events during the Year of China in Russia, tourism opens a window for Russian citizens to know more about China, ancient and modern," Shao said.

China has kept drawing Russian visitors in recent years. Compared to the traditional but still attractive destinations like Hainan province in southern China, where nearly 90,000 winter-hardened Russians visited to get sun kissed on sand beaches, Shaolin Temple in Henan province has become one of the new and thriving Chinese tourist destinations for Russians.

"After Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit, Russian tourists rushed to the temple to see what it is that was so fascinating for their president," Shao said.

Many Chinese places of interests that are relatively unknown to Russians came to the tourism fair with their different landscapes, such as piercing mountains in Guangxi, crystal-clear lakes in Sichuan, and ancient imperial constructions in Henan.

Russia is more than a simple tourist destination for Chinese visitors. Many Chinese visitors choose Russia because of their Soviet links, Shao said.

They are eager to come close to the former Socialist great power which they got to know from childhood, the bloodshed battlefield of World War II and the almost holy place where Vladimir Lenin lived and worked, etc.

They are also magnetized by historical sites like the Red Square and the Kremlin, the characteristic Russian architecture of different eras, and the country's world-renowned oil paintings, Shao said.

Therefore the number of visitors between the countries has continued to increase, Shao said, adding that last year's figure was 3.12 million, a figure that is expected to rise to five million in 2008 according to the trend.

However, problems do exist to hinder tourism development between the two countries, including the inconvenience of the Russian visa process, the inefficient customs entry, which led to a slight drop in the number of Chinese visitors to Russia last year, Shao said.

He expects Russia to invest in tourism in China. According to Shao, China boasts 49 brands of high-ranking international hotels, none of which are from Russia.

Nearly 200 festivities will take place this year in the framework of Year of China in Russia, and together with last year's successful Year of Russia in China, cooperation between the two countries in fields like tourism, politics, economy, science, culture and education are sure to boom, Shao said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 23, 2007)

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