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US likely to be tourist destination

Oct. 2. 2007

The US could soon become a new destination for Chinese tourists if the two sides agree to it at their new round of talks later this month.

The Queen Mary 2 moves beneath the Golden Gate Bridge as it enters a harbor in San Francisco, California February 4, 2007. The US could soon become a new destination for Chinese tourists if the two sides agree to it at their new round of talks later this month.

China and the US both hope to sign a memorandum of understanding on Approved Destination Status at the talks, said Du Jiang, deputy director of China National Tourism Administration (CNTA). The first round of talks was held last year.

If everything goes smoothly, the US could be added to Chinese tourists' destination list before the year-end. The list already includes 132 countries and regions.

The US Department of Commerce hopes to reach an agreement with China before the end of this year, Du said earlier. And China's response has been positive.

According to CNTA figures, 2.35 million tourists traveled between China and the US last year. The US contributed about 1.71 million of them, a year-on-year increase of 9.95 percent.

A recent report of the US Department of Commerce's Office of Travel and Tourism Industries said China is the 10th most popular destination for American tourists today, compared to 16th in 2000.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting the US, however, has not seen a similar increase. The main reason is that a Chinese tourist can only visit the US on a business visa.

Du led 26 provincial tourism directors to meet with their US counterparts in late October. At the meeting, he realized that the American tourism industry very much wants the country to become a destination for Chinese tourists because of the rapid increase in their number.

The Chinese are not only the largest overseas-bound tourists in Asia, but also top the list of spenders abroad. An average overseas Chinese tourist last year spent US$1,580, shows a survey by the Tax Free World Association and AC Nielsen.

Insiders estimate that the cost of trips to the US will be roughly the same as what a business trip costs, that is, between 7,000 yuan and 20,000 yuan (US$940-2,700).

"But tour agencies will improve the products and update the itineraries, and tourists can have a wider range of choices," said Lin Kang, deputy general manager of outbound tourism department of the China International Travel Service Head Office.

(China Daily November 9, 2007)

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