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China sees fall in foreign tourists this year: state media

December 5, 2008

BEIJING 3 Decmber 2008 (AFP) — The number of foreign tourists to China fell in the first 10 months of the year and the global economic crisis was expected to make things worse next year, authorities said in comments published Wednesday.
The number of overseas visitors staying overnight in China -- a useful measure for the tourism industry -- between January and October fell 1.9 percent year-on-year, the official China Daily said.
The report, citing Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration, said the trend was expected to continue in 2009.
"Foreign visitor arrivals are sure to decline next year as a result of the global economic slowdown , so we must focus our efforts on stimulating domestic demand," Shao said.
However the domestic tourism market remained strong, and the outbound sector -- the number of Chinese people going abroad -- was up 14 percent in the first 10 months, the China Daily said.
The report did not give any reasons for the fall in foreign tourist numbers, but several events during the year have previously been linked to the decline.
These included the deadly unrest in Tibet in March, the devastating earthquake in scenic Sichuan province in May and travel restrictions for foreigners in the lead up to and during the August Beijing Olympics.
Unrest broke out in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, on March 14 after four days of peaceful protest against 57 years of Chinese rule, and the government immediately sealed off the Himalayan region to tourists.
Authorities only allowed foreign tourists back at the end of June.
As a result, just 340,000 travellers went to Tibet between January and June this year, according to the official Tibet Daily newspaper, a dramatic drop from the same period in 2007 when over 1.1 million people visited.
China's capital also saw a sharp drop in visitors during the Olympics, with the number of international travellers falling by 7.2 percent year-on-year in August.
No official reason was given for the fall in Beijing, but China's concern over disruptions to the Games, including terrorism and anti-government protests, led to a raft of new regulations on travel to the capital.
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