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Britain cuts visa price for Chinese tourists
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Britain will cut the price of its group tourist visas for Chinese travelers by almost a third for three months from March 3, said the British Ambassador to China Sir William Ehrman on Wednesday.


The price would fall from 63 pounds (980 yuan) to 44 pounds (660 yuan) and a final decision on whether the reduction should be permanent would be made at the end of the trial period, said Ehrman.


China was the first country to carry out the trial reduction, said Ehrman, adding it was aimed at promoting tourism.


"The UK's relationship with China is crucial and growing, and mobility between the two countries is essential to underpin it. The visa system needs to facilitate that mobility," Ehrman said.


He said Chinese tourists were visiting Europe in increasing numbers, and Britain wanted to welcome as many as possible.


China and Britain signed the UK-China Approved Destination Status (ADS) Memorandum of Understanding in July 2005 to facilitate the visit of Chinese tourist groups to Britain.


Ehrman said the British Embassy in Beijing issued over 13,000 ADS visas in China last year, up 26 percent from 2006, with an issue rate of 95 percent.


The new tourist visa scheme is among a series of programs to promote exchanges between Beijing and London, which will be holding the Olympic Games successively in 2008 and 2012.


On Monday, a "Women and the Olympics" forum drew Chinese and British officials, athletes, businesswomen and representatives of social groups to the British Museum to share views and experiences on the Olympics, as part of the China-UK Women's Cultural Festival.


On Feb. 12, the 2008 'China in London' season was launched in central London. It celebrates China's vibrant and historic cultural life with music, dance, film, theater, and interactive workshops and exhibitions.


More than 300,000 people are expected to participate in the events, which range from free Chinese Opera Workshops for children, Chinese tea tasting and modern opera performances, to the Chinese Elderly Art Group performance of traditional Chinese cultural and martial arts.


China and Britain would also carry out two schemes to promote exchanges between the athletes and coaches before the Beijing Olympics, and among young people between the Beijing and London Games, said Ehrman.


(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2008)


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