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Chongqing Losing Out in Race for Tourists
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The Three Gorges Dam Project has cast a shadow over Chongqing's tourism industry, the vice-mayor of the southwestern metropolis Tan Xiwei recently admitted.

"The dam does bring more challenges than opportunities to Chongqing's Three Gorges tourism industry," Tan was quoted as saying in China Business News yesterday.

His remarks came amid speculations that Chongqing had fallen behind neighboring Yichang in central China's Hubei Province in the race to attract visitors to see the Three Gorges.

Completed last summer, the vast dam at Sandouping in the middle of the Xiling Gorge near Yichang has become a new tourist destination, with Chongqing tourism authorities promoting the dam as a key part of a tour along the Yangtze.

However, Yichang is now winning these tourists, and the economic benefits they bring, away from Chongqing, particularly after the city launched a major new promotional campaign last year, Tan said.

"Special characteristics are essential for the fast growth of Chongqing's tourism industry. Currently, Chongqing's appeal lies in ecological and rural attractions, ancient towns and hot spring tours," said Tan.

He said 2007 has been designated "ecological tourism year" in Chongqing, with "countryside," "ancient town," and "hot spring" years to follow.

Studies show that Chongqing has "first-class ecological tourism resources by both Chinese and international standards," said Tan, but he said the municipality lacks first-class tourism products.

Chongqing has instructed a think tank to draft a blueprint for local tourism development, and it is expected to come up with a plan in March this year. The question of how to integrate all scenic spots around the Three Gorges area will be answered at the first half of this year, and construction is slated to begin in the second half of the year.

But a local tourism business insider, who preferred to remain anonymous, warned that the strategy failed to make full use of the region's rich cultural and historic resources. Chongqing tourism will still be "begging with a golden bowl in their hands," he said.

The Three Gorges region is a famous scenic spot along the Yangtze River in Chongqing Municipality and Hubei Province.

With a total length of approximately 200 kilometers, the region consists of Qutang Gorge, Wuxia Gorge and Xiling Gorge.

(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2007)

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