China will take three years for its tourism industry to fully recover from the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak (SARS), according to a top tourism official.
China was the hardest hit country in the world.
Zhang Xiqin, deputy director of the National Tourism Administration, told the reporters when issuing the latest tourism figures that the tourism industry is expected to go into a full recovery stage in 2005.
According to the latest statistics from the administration, tourism had rebounded since June because of the effective containment of SARS. Nationwide hotel occupancy rates have rebounded to 60 to 70 percent of the same period last year, but tourism agencies witnessed little business and were still struggling.
Meanwhile, outbound tourism saw a rapid increase and in some regions the value of outbound services has equaled to or even exceeded the figure for the same period last year.
But the deputy director warned of a sluggish recovery in arrivals of overseas tourists.
Li Jingwen, member of the Chinese Academy of Engineers and researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China's tourism industry is small in scale and vulnerable to risks, andthese problems had been sharply exposed in the SARS crisis. He suggested a restructuring of China's small and inexperienced tourism agencies into bigger and strong units.