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Africa to Become Hot Destination for Chinese Tourists

All the major travel agencies in this capital city of Beijing have had their travel groups to Africa fully booked up despite still one week to go before the long holiday of the Chinese lunar new year, Spring Festival.


"The increase in number of Chinese outbound tourists to Africa each year shows the great potential of African tourist attraction though the number has so far accounted only for 5 percent of the total Chinese outbound tourists," said Lin Bo, a director with China International Travel Service, China's largest travel company.


The number of Chinese outbound tourists to Africa reached 110,000 in 2005, which doubled that in previous year, according to the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau of Public Security Ministry.


"African tour is very distinctive. For example, the native tribes in Kenya still keep their tradition which gave us real shocks," Ms. Liu, who just concluded her visit to Kenya, told Xinhua excitedly.


"There is a special hotel called Treetops in Kenya," Liu said, "visitors can stay in the trees and get close to the wild animals."


China will implement the program of Chinese citizens' group tour to some African nations and grant more African countries "Approved Destination Status for outbound Chinese tourist groups", according to the Chinese government's first-ever African Policy Paper issued on January 12.


Currently 16 African countries have been granted the outbound destinations for Chinese tourists.


Lin said, "The major African travel destinations are Egypt, South Africa and Kenya. We are going to explore new travel lines."


"It's easy to apply for a visa to African countries, and Chinese visitors can get visas within 7 work days as the African consulates to China are cooperative and never let Chinese tourists down," Lin added.


The tourism administrations in some African countries, such as Kenya and Zimbabwe, have invited Chinese tourism staff to make field trips to their countries.


An official with Kenyan Embassy to China said, tourism is one of the largest industries in Kenya, which attracts a great number of foreign visitors every year.


"There are not so many visitors from China at present, but we attach importance to the Chinese market," he said in a phone interview.


"In recent years we witnessed an ever increasing number of Chinese tourists in our country and we are very optimistic about the future of China's tourist market," the official said.


"The tourism 'hardware' in Africa is good as there are lots of excellent star-lever hotels with complete facilities," said a deputy manager in China Travel Service who only gave her surname as Zheng.


"The cost is one of the key factors which limits the number of Chinese tourists to Africa as the air tickets are still comparatively expensive," Zheng said.


"But we have some cooperation programs with some airline companies to further reduce the cost," she added.


Zheng said, "Very few Chinese tourists have been to Africa, a continent full of mysteries, so the African tourist market has a big potential to explore."


(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2006)


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