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Cold weather dampens Spring Festival tourism
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Chinese travel agencies have cancelled 10,000 domestic tour groups as many vacationers settled for local parks and tourism sites amidst the lingering freeze that has snarled central, southern and eastern China since early January.

Wang Zhifa, deputy chief of the National Tourism Administration (NTA), attributed the cancellation to "inconvenient transport" following road and railway breakdowns and the closure of airports ahead of the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year that fell on Feb. 7 this year.

The administration has issued six emergency notices in nearly two weeks, calling on the public not to travel too far from their homes while travel agencies were encouraged to provide short-range or local traveling packages.

The administration advised against traveling to the 19 snow-hit provinces and autonomous regions in the country.

The disaster relief and emergency command center under the State Council said some icy roads in southwestern Yunnan Province and central Hunan Province remained partially closed to traffic by Friday.

Destroyed transmission wires are still under repair. Rail, road and air transport in other regions have been going on smoothly.

Zhang Lingjie, deputy general manager with the Domestic Tourism Department of the China Travel Service Head Office, said the snow havoc sent a big chill over the Spring Festival tourism which otherwise would have experienced a boom as the scrap of the year's so-called "Golden Week" Labor Day Holiday had stimulated many Chinese to advance their vacation plans.

About 50 percent of Beijing tourists for instance have cancelled their vacation plans to southern China, Zhang said, adding that travel agencies were estimated to earn 70 percent less from long-range domestic tours this Spring Festival than last year's same period.

A good news from the coordination office for national holiday tourism under the NTA, however, is the prevalence of temple fairs and other celebrations featuring folklore and custom.

Tourists to Beijing's Yonghegong Lamasery are four times as many as its daily average while lantern riddle festivals in Shanghai aroused hurrahs.

The Central Meteorological Station forecast Saturday light or moderate snow for northeastern part of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and central and northern part of Heilongjiang Province between Sunday and Monday.

Heavy snow or even blizzards were expected to come in the next three days in parts of Tibet Autonomous Region, and provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan. Sleet and icy rains are possible in most part of southwestern Guizhou Province.

(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2008)


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