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New expressway sparks tourist boom
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The Beijing-Chengde Expressway opened on Sunday cutting travel times from the capital to the city in Hebei province by half.

The new 210 km expressway, which cost 105 yuan (15 U.S. dollars) one way, now connects the two cities in just two hours.

And authorities say the 6.2 billion yuan road will be boom for local Hebei tourism.

"Because the expressway will greatly improve the transport network access to Chengde, and will bring us more tourists both from Beijing and other places," Sun Lei, deputy director of Chengde tourism bureau said.

Guo Pujin, president of this expressway's builder, Beijing Capital Highway Development Group Co, said project was an important part of Daqing-Guangzhou Expressway, which stretches from northeast China down to south China.

Chengde, population 450,000, has long been known as Beijing's back garden and boasts many places of historic interest and scenic beauty that will appeal to many Beijingers who now own cars.

It was once a vast imperial garden formerly used by the emperors of the Qing Dynasty.

"I like Chengde very much, since I am particularly interested in Buddhist resorts," Zhang Peng, an insurance company worker said.

He drove to Chengde last year but planned to visit again soon.

During the National Day holiday period last year, tourists from Beijing to Chengde accounted for nearly half of the city's visitors, according to Chengde tourism bureau.

"The urban area of Chengde received 60,000 to 70,000 Beijing tourists in the National Day holiday period last year," Sun said.

"I am sure there will be a significant rise this year."

Sun also pointed out that the expressway will help tourists get an in-depth knowledge of Chengde.

In the past, visitors often chose to visit famous scenic spots in urban areas, such as Chengde Imperial Summer Resort and some temples.

But now, the new expressway will bring them to Chengde's villages and ecological zones, which are located in the outer areas of the city.

Wang Zhenzhou, sales manager of Chengde Chunqiu Travel Agency, said he predicted a 30 percent increase in business during the upcoming holiday, thanks to the new expressway.

But some locals are concerned that the boom will occur too quickly.

"I am not worried about the capacity of the new expressway, but for our city's holding capacity, there will be some problems," Sun said.

"If the tourist numbers increase, Chengde will face challenges in terms of services and city transport capacity."

(China Daily September 28, 2009)

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