Record number of overseas tourists visit capital

Beijing's tourism industry enjoyed substantial growth in 2005 and is on-track to become a first-class international tourist destination.

According to statistics released by the Information Office of the Beijing municipal government yesterday, Beijing received 3.629 million tourists last year from outside the Chinese mainland.

That is a growth rate of 15 per cent over 2004, and represents the largest number of visitors so far.

Among the tourists to come to Beijing, 3.116 million were from foreign countries, a growth rate of 16.2 per cent over 2004.

The United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea were the top three sources of tourists.

Visitors from Hong Kong reached 314,000, a growth rate of 13.1 per cent over 2004. Last year also saw 186,000 visitors from Taiwan, a growth of 1.4 per cent over 2004.

The overall foreign exchange income in the tourism industry reached US$3.62 billion last year.

The 11th Five-Year Plan that was approved by the municipal people's congress on Friday listed tourism as a major service industry. The government has promised special support.

The plan aims to allow Beijing to seize the opportunity of hosting the Olympic Games in 2008 to promote tourism, with a focus on the convention and exhibition industry.

The city plans to establish a series conventions and exhibitions with international influence, especially in the fields of science and technology, vehicles and culture.

Sightseeing, exhibitions, holidays, culture and entertainment will become the five pillars of Beijing's tourism sector.

The municipal tourism bureau estimates that a total investment of 80 billion yuan (US$9.8 billion) will be put into the tourism and exhibition industry in the next five to six years.

According to a document on the outlook of Beijing's tourism industry, released by the bureau, Beijing has set a goal of becoming a first-class international tourism destination by 2020.

The document said tourism infrastructure, such as roads and transport networks, would be substantially improved thanks to the Olympic Games, making the city more friendly and accessible for tourists.

A light rail line connecting Beijing Capital International Airport and Dongzhimen in downtown Beijing will be completed by 2008. It will take passengers 16 minutes to cover a distance of 27 kilometres.

Also, the municipal government promises to spare no effort in preserving the ancient look of the city.

Source: China Daily

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