Xi'an, a popular tourist destination in Shaanxi Province, is planning to set up three tourism offices in Japan to attract more foreign visitors, Zhou Aiquan, director of the Xi'an Tourism Administration, told China.org.cn in an exclusive interview on August 30.
The three offices would be set up in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, and the application has been submitted to the National Tourism Administration for approval, Zhou said. To streamline the tourism promotion activities, the national tourism authority mandates that all big moves first receive approval.
"I am very confident that our plan will be approved. The proposed tourism offices in Japan would utilize the existing offices of China Eastern Airlines," Zhou said. "It would be a win-win move for both parts to attract more passengers. We have the same target, because 90 percent of these Japanese passengers to Xi'an are going for vacations."
The cultural and historical significance of the area, as well as the abundant relics and sites, help Xi'an enjoy the laudatory title of "Natural History Museum".
The Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses (listed as a UNESCO world heritage site) together with the City Walls, Great Mosque, Bell Tower & Drum Tower, Forest of Stone Steles Museum, and Shaanxi History Museum are major attractions of the city.
In addition, Xi'an now has regular flights to Jiuzhaigou and Zhangjiajie, two UNESCO world natural heritages. The air links allow tour companies to easily provide both cultural and natural sights in one package tour, Zhou explained.
Before 2002, Japan was the biggest tourist source country for Xi'an. Statistics showed that some 1.67 million Japanese visited Xi'an in 2002. However, the SARS outbreak in 2003 saw a sharp decline of Japan tourists. Only 51,000 visitors from Japan were recorded in 2003.
To recover the vulnerable inbound tourism industry, a series of promotional activities were implemented in 2004. Japanese tourists to Xi'an then increased to 99,600. In 2005, only 75,600 Japan tourists were received, while in 2006, the number increased to 85,400, Zhou said.
The latest statistics show that 40,900 Japan tourists have visited Xi'an from January to July this year, an increase of 12.56 percent compared to same period of last year. Now Japan is the second biggest inbound tourist market after the United States.
(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong, August 31, 2007)