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China's New Wealthy Head off to See World

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More than 57 million Chinese tourists are expected to travel abroad in 2011, spending a staggering US$55 billion, the China Tourism Academy, a think tank to the tourism authorities, said in a report released on Monday.

According to the annual report, the Blue Book of China's Tourism Economy (2010-2011), the travel boom will send 3 million more Chinese travelers abroad in 2011 than last year, with a larger amount of outbound tourist spending. "China remains Asia's largest source of outbound tourists as the number of outbound travelers continues to soar," said Dai Bin, head of the academy.

The flourishing outbound tourism market is sending the wealth of China's well-heeled tourists beyond the country's borders.

The report said it is estimated that last year income from 132 million inbound tourists in China reached $46 billion, while the 54 million Chinese outbound travelers spent US$48 billion aboard.

"There was definitely a deficit in tourism service trade in 2010," Dai said.

As well as the increasing number of outbound tourists, Dai attributes the deficit to the Chinese outbound tourists' huge power as consumers.

According to Dai, inbound tourism, which was developed after China opened up to the world in late 1970s, resembles a "middle-aged man" compared with the country's outbound tourism market that resembles a "young man" full of vigor.

Li Meng, deputy manager of the outbound tourism department of China International Travel Service, told China Daily that in 2010 the agency's outbound tourism business almost doubled in terms of the number of tourists and the amount of revenue and profit.

Although sales for tour packages during the Spring Festival are not yet drawing to an end, Li estimated that the numbers of outbound tours will increase 20 percent year-on-year, which is "a propitious omen" for the agency's annual business.

Shi Xiaojuan, assistant general manager of the Beijing office of the China Travel Service, told China Daily that tour packages during the Spring Festival accounted for almost one-third of the agency's annual outbound business.

"For instance, our packages to Tahiti, a Pacific island, have been almost sold out at a price of 30,000 yuan (US$4,500)," she said.

According to Dai, China's fast-emerging middle class, improving transport links, combined with fewer travel problems and more favorable policies have all contributed to the boom in outbound as well as domestic tourism markets.

He said China will implement a "national tourism plan" in the next five years to accelerate the development of the industry.

(China Daily January 11, 2011)

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