CITS-AE Travel Agency, which will start operating next March, was jointly established by the China International Travel Service and the American Express Company.
Comfort-Rosenbluth was set up by China Comfort Travel Co. and Rosenbluth Company, with Comfort holding 51 percent of the shares.
"China will further promote the joint venture travel agencies. Cooperation with some agencies in America, Europe and Japan are still under discussion. We estimate, an increasing number of first- class international travel agencies will come to China," said Zhang Jianzhong, director general of policy and legal department with CNTA.
China revised the regulations for travel agencies a week ago. According to the revision, after January 1 of 2003, foreign travel agencies can hold over 51 percent of the total shares. After December 31 2005, sole foreign-funded agencies can operate in China.
Related Story : Foreign Travel Agencies to Land in China
Foreign travel agencies will be allowed to control stakes in joint-venture companies by January 1, 2003 and wholly own companies by the end of 2005, Chinese travel authorities announced on December 28.
The moves reflects China's hasty move to uphold agreements made when it formally joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this month.
A China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) official said the State Council -approved the revised Regulations on the Management of Travel Agency on December 11 and added a chapter on foreign travel services.
"From now, such joint-venture and wholly owned firms can apply directly for approval from the CNTA and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation (MOFTEC) to simplify the processes of examination and approval,'' said Zhang Jianzhong, director of Policy and Legal Department of the CNTA.
Still, there must be caution, he noted.
"On the other hand, we should allow foreign travel agencies enter China's tourism market step by step in accordance with their qualification,'' he added.
According to the regulations, foreign investors entering China's tourism industry must be travel services or companies engaged in tourism and be members of their country's tourism association.
In the WTO agreements, China promised that a foreign travel agency with the minimum registered capital of 2.5 million yuan (US$302,000) could control stakes in a joint-venture within three years after China's entry into the WTO.
More Foreign Travel Agencies Welcomed
China will speed up its deregulation of the tourism industry and allow more foreign travel agencies to enter the sector, according to officials from the China State Tourism Bureau.
Wang Chaoyao, vice-director of the bureau's Planning and Development Department, said his bureau has approved the establishment of eight Sino-foreign joint venture travel agencies.
"It is a sign that we have decided to beef up the sector's opening to overseas investment," Wang said.
Travel agencies are the final sector of the tourism industry to open up to foreign participation.