Wave of mainland tourists visiting Pacific isles

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Safety concerns, better travel options help lesser-known destinations gain an edge over once-popular locales.

Political uncertainties in some Southeast Asian nations are propelling Chinese tourists to such exotic destinations as Hawaii, Saipan and Guam in the Pacific and also helping boost local tourism industries in these regions, tourism sources said.

Jiang Yiyi, director of the China Tourism Academy's international tourism development division, said that the number of outbound tourists from China will cross 100million this year.

"It is obvious that newer destinations will benefit from the increased outflows," he said.

According to Jiang, nearly one-third of the Chinese tourists are self-guided travelers who prefer trips to exotic destinations like the Pacific Islands. Other destinations like Japan and South Korea also are gaining in popularity with Chinese tourists because of the continued political problems in some Southeast Asian nations.

"The Pacific Islands will be the main beneficiary of the increased tourist flows as many of the islands are new and unexplored destinations," she said.

Hawaii, which comprises several different islands, has already become popular with Chinese travelers. According to Hawaii's tourism bureau, more than 110,000 Chinese tourists visited the islands in 2012 and the number should reach 144,000 this year.

Some carriers have already started to operate direct flights between Beijing and Honolulu.

Air China Co Ltd launched direct flights on the route in January and three-months later, Hawaiian Airlines Inc also commenced triweekly flights.

Hawaiian Airlines, which has a well-woven network in Hawaii, is planning to add more flights on the route and connect to more destinations in China, if the demand grows, said Mark Dunkerly, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

Saipan is another Pacific island that belongs to the United States that is fast becoming popular with Chinese travelers, especially as it has a visa-on-arrival policy for Chinese tourists.

"The visa policy of Saipan is even more convenient than some Southeast Asian countries," said Xie Ting, a 27-year-old office worker from Xi'an, Shaanxi province.

Xie spent her holiday in Saipanin May, though her original plan was to go to Phuket Island in Thailand. "I changed my plans, as I was worried that the local political events would affect my holiday," she said.

Charter flights operated by some carriers like China Southern Airlines Co Ltd, Sichuan Airlines Co Ltd and Asiana Airlines Inc provided multiple choices for Xie to arrive in Saipan, although there are no regular direct flights between China and the island.

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