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Wen: Tourism Development 'Crucial'
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that the first two decades of the new century would be crucial to the development of tourism in China, as the country builds a well-off society and accelerates modernization.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 15th session of the World Tourism Organization General Assembly which opened in Beijing yesterday, the premier said China would develop tourism into a major industry, protect and develop tourist resources and strive to realize the sustainable development of tourism.

Tourism ministers from more than 100 countries and nearly 1,000 delegates from around the world were attending the meeting.

Wen said that since the middle of last century, modern tourism had been on the rise around the world. The number of tourists had kept growing, the scale of tourist industry had continued to expand and the position of tourism in the economy had improved markedly.

He called tourism an important channel for cultural exchange, enhancing friendship and in expanding communications among the people of all countries. Tourism had an increasingly profound influence on life and social progress.

Noting that ancient Chinese philosophers had put forward the idea of tourism, Wen said the government placed great importance on the industry. China's tourism sector had grown rapidly and become a rising industry that showed great vigor and potential, he said.

The country ranked among top destinations in the world in terms of the number of visitors and in foreign exchange income from tourism. The number of Chinese tourists going abroad was growing rapidly.

Wen said that despite the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in spring, China had adopted prompt and effective measures to help the severely affected industry to recover and expand rapidly.

He said China had unique and rich tourist resources such as beautiful natural scenery and a great historical and cultural heritage. The country had 56 ethnic groups and 29 global cultural and natural heritage sites and the landscape of urban and rural areas was changing rapidly along with the social reform.

All these factors had created favorable conditions for the development of tourism, Wen added.

The Chinese government welcomed friends from all countries as tourists, and will do its utmost to guarantee their health and security, he said.

The government encouraged more Chinese to travel abroad. It wanted wide-ranging cooperation with all countries to develop global tourism.

(Xinhua News Agency October 20, 2003)

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