Biggest U.S. travel show attracts Chinese tours for Silk Road destinations

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China National Tourism office booth at the Colorado Convention Center for the 2017 Travel and Adventure Show. (Photo provided by China National Tourism office)

As thousands of Colorado travelers flocked into the Colorado Convention Center for the 2017 Travel and Adventure Show, Joe Sinisi looked on and smiled.

Sinisi started Access China Tours 21 years ago with two Beijing English professors, when China was just beginning the rampant growth that stuns tourists today.

"Access China's growth parallels the sophistication of China's evolution," Sinisi told Xinhua Saturday. "We have enjoyed the journey with China into the 21st century."

Sinisi, 52, talked to Xinhua from Access China's booth - one of 200 - that filled the packed convention hall Saturday and was conveniently located next to the China National Tourist office booth.

Access China is a boutique travel agency that caters to customer' s needs like no other - with tours tailored toward specific requests from clients.

Today the agency crafts some 200 specialty tours and sends 1,000 tourists to the world's most popular destination each year.

More than 2 million Americans joined 100 million global visitors to China last year, and Chinese tourism officials see those numbers doubling in the next few years to 5 million.

As 2017 began, the China National Tourism Administration launched a large-scale thematic advertising campaign called, 'Beautiful China - 2017 Year of Silk Road Tourism.'

The campaign was unveiled simultaneously in more than 20 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Saturday, Chinese officials took to the stage to show the circuitous route the Silk Road tour would take across China.

"We are hopeful the amazing destinations along the historic Silk Road will continue to draw record numbers of Americans," Ning Wu, Director of the China National Tourist office in Los Angeles, told Xinhua.

Wu was in Washington, DC last November for closing ceremonies for the "China-USA Tourism Year," a high-level event that brought China Vice Premier Wang Yang.

2017 is the third consecutive year celebrating the "Year of Silk Road Tourism," a themed slogan that will continue to "Explore Beautiful China along the Silk Road," Chinese tourism literature markets.

The historic Silk Road winds through western China, dips into southeast Asia, and continues north another two thousand miles up the east coast past the biggest cities in China today, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Qing Dao, and Dalian.

The history of the European trade route dates back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and became famous during the Yuan Dynasty when it was used by the Italian explorer Marco Polo.

While the Silk Road theme may be 2,000 years old, China's emergence as the world's top destination is all 21st century.

China Highlight online Director Victor Shu predicted the next decade would see records numbers of tourists each year, if global economic conditions hold, as people across the planet flock to China.

None of those interviewed at the convention omitted China from their list of highly sought destinations.

"I remember a trip in 1997 when China had 'so-called' 5-star hotels where guests couldn't exchange money, where nobody spoke English, and where there wasn't hot water all the time," Sinisi smiled.

"But that's not the case anymore - China has the finest hotels on earth, and the Beijing Ritz Carleton is as good as any in the world, even Paris," Sinisi said.

Sinisi is no novice when it comes to global travel. A 1988 graduate of Princeton University in politics, Sinisi worked as a lawyer in Australia, Micronesia, and Denver, before teaching contract and intellectual property law to elite students in Beijing in 1995.

The next year he met Beijing University English professors Mark Huang and Cherry Chen, a husband and wife team who wanted to start a travel agency.

"We always knew about the expectations of American tourists but it took us some time to develop Access China into a well-oiled machine," Sinisi said. "We always try to get feedback so we know how to improve."

In 2011, Access China started offering exclusive "Art Museum Group" tours and the response had been tremendous, according to Sinisi.

"We have world famous curators, world art donors, and so far everything has exceed their expectations," Sinisi said.

"Access China is a mom and pop, husband and wife business headquartered in Vancouver," Sinisi says.

"We've got 9 employees in Vancouver and a team in Beijing that is excellent, and knows about the hospitality business," he says.

"It's taken a while for us to get this down," Sinisi said, who predicted the future of tourism between the USA and China would be hosting groups coming to the USA.

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