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Tourism in China

great_wall_tour.jpg (23785 bytes)           Modern tourism in China sprang up in the early 1950s.  In 1954, the China International Travel Service was established, with 14 branches in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and other major cities. In 1964, the State Tourism Administration of China was formally established. 

Since the initiation of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world in 1978, China's tourism has entered a stage of rapid development.  In 1998, the number of tourists entering China reached 63.48 million, of which 7.11 million were foreign tourists, 35 times the figure for 1978.

Consequently, the foreign exchange income from this industry reached US $12.6 billion, 48 times that of 1978.   Currently, China has become an important tourism destination in Asia, and ranks sixth in the number of arrivals in the world.  Domestic  tourism is also growing vigorously.  

In 1998, the number of domestic tourists reached 695 million, spending a total of 239.1 billion yuan - 10 percent and 74 percent increases over 1995, respectively.  With the improvement of Chinese people's living standards, Chinese citizens have an increasingly strong interest in traveling abroad.  In recent years, Chinese citizens have traveled to Southeast Asia and Europe. 

Foreign travel agencies are now opening offices in China to attract Chinese to travel abroad. Now, China is fast on its way to becoming a country with developed tourism, and constantly improving tourism facilities and services.  It is estimated that, by 2020, China will be the world's No. 1 tourism destination and the fourth largest nation of tourists.  

China's transportation system, comprising railways, highways, water transport and civil aviation, has developed in a robust way, along with the tourism industry.  China has set up 1,122 domestic and international air routes, and conditioned buses ply among all the scenic spots to provide comfort and convenience for tourists.  At hotels, tourists may book train, bus, ship and air tickets to any destination.

Chinese books, paintings, native products, rare medicinal herbs and handicrafts are all popular with foreign visitors.  And handicraft shops can be found in most scenic spots.

Forbidden city (Beijing)


China is a vast land, rich in tourism resources.  It has scenic spots and historical sites, spectacular landscapes and colorful and varied national customs.  At present, there are two major tour routes in China: One is the "S" shaped traditional tour route, containing famous political and cultural cities such as Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou; the other one is the crescent-shaped tour route containing coastal open regions, such as the Liaodong and Shandong peninsulas and the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.

Following the "S" shaped tour route, tourists may climb the Badaling Great Wall and visit the Imperial Palace and Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and view the terracotta soldiers and horses excavated from the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, the Stele Forest and the Great Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, wander along the bustling Bund and Nanjing Road and through the Pudong New Zone in Shanghai, enjoy Suzhou's gardens and the sights of the West Lake in Hangzhou.

Following the crescent-shaped tour route, visitors may get some idea of the enormous changes which have taken place in the open coastal cities since the initiation of reform and opening to the outside world, and appreciate the charming seaside areas in north and south China.  Moreover, the coastal towns all have holiday villages and various recreation facilities.  In the '99 International Ecological Tourism Year, China is sponsoring an ecological tour route. 

The purpose of this new program is to enhance people's understanding and knowledge of environmental protection through ecological tours.  The tour begins on the Inner Mongolia Prairie and continues via Shanzi's Hengshan Mountain (one of the famous five mountains).  The others are Taishan in Shandong, Hengshan in Hunan, Huashan in Shaanzi and Songshan in Henan), Mount Wudang, sacred to Taoists, in Hubei, the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River, Shenongjia in Hubei, Wulingyuan near Zhangjiajie in Hunan, Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan, and Guilin City, Beihai beach and areas bordering on Vietnam in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Of them, Zhangjiajie and Jiuzhaigou are highlights and have been designated as key tour areas for the Ecological Tourism Year.  This ecological tour route contains scenic spots, historical sites and prairies in north China and strange peaks, grotesque rocks, elegant waters and rural scenery in south China, famous mountains and large rivers inland and Beihai beach in Guangxi, providing tourists with opportunities to experience the time-honored civilization and spectacular landscapes of China.

Chinese music, dance and opera, and the culture and customs of ethnic minorities are treasure stores of tourism resources.  Coming to China, tourists appreciate folk art, including uniquely charming Peking Opera performances and comic dialogues, and also learn about ethnic customs such as the Dai Water Sprinkling Festival, Ti Torch Festival, Bai March Street, Zhuang Singing Festival and Mongolian Nadam Fair.  Besides, tasting Chinese cuisine is an absolutely necessary part of tourism in China.  The Beijing Roast Duck of the Quanjude Restaurant, Mongolian boiled mutton, Guangdong's roasted piglet, Hangzhou's West Lake vinegar fish, Sichuan's spicy bean curd and a variety of local-flavor snacks are only some of China's culinary delights.


The State Tourism Administration, functioning under the State Council, is the administrative organ of the nation's tourism trade.  Its functions are to formulate policies and establish systems for developing tourism, draw up development plans, organize foreign publicity and issue tourism information, and supervise and examine the implementation of policies and plans.  The State Tourism Administration has branches in all provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, as well as offices in Tokyo, New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

There are travel agencies in every city in China.  Among them, the following three major agencies host and make arrangements for tourists coming to China:

China International Travel Service - With headquarters in Beijing and branches in all provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and some of the open cities, it specially serves foreign tourists.

China Travel Service and the Overseas Chinese Travel Service of China - Both cater to overseas Chinese residents, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan compatriots, and foreign Chinese returning as tourists or to visit relatives.  Both are headquartered in Beijing, and have branches in open cities, open areas and hometowns of overseas Chinese, as well as permanent offices in Hong Kong, Macao and Thailand.

China Youth Travel Service -Based in Beijing, it hosts mainly young foreign people, young overseas Chinese and young compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

In addition, there are the China International Sports Travel Company, China Culture Travel Service, China People's International Travel Company, China Tian'e International Travel Company and China Women's Travel Service, all catering to foreign tourists.

Since the initiation of the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, China has built, expanded and renovated many hotels and restaurants to satisfy the needs of tourists.  China today has over 3,000 star-rated hotels.  Leading five-star hotels are the Palace Hotel, Grand China Hotel and Shangrila Hotel in Beijing, the Hilton Hotel, Garden Hotel and New Jinjiang Hotel in Shanghai, the White Swan Hotel, China Hotel and Oriental Hotel in Guangzhou, the Fulihua Hotel in Dalian and the South China Sea Hotel in Shenzhen.  Besides, there are now hotels to meet the needs of travelers in all large and medium-sized cities and special scenic areas.



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