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1,000 families will host foreign visitors to Beijing
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09:02, April 11, 2008

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Up to 1,000 Chinese families will host foreign visitors to Beijing this summer as part of an Olympic Homestay program, the municipal tourism bureau said yesterday.

Families with a spare room and at least one member who can speak a foreign language have until the end of the month to apply to take part in the program, Xiong Yumei, deputy director of the bureau, said at a press conference.

The visitors must be given their own air-conditioned bedroom, be provided with clean sheets, and have access to shower facilities and a telephone, Xiong said.

"We will send teams next month to meet the families that have applied and select those that best meet the requirements. Later, they will be given training on etiquette and folk customs," she said.

The homestay families will be allowed to charge guests between 400 and 600 yuan per day, she said.

Zhao Xin, director of the Olympics Service Center of China International Travel Service Head Office, one of two tour agencies authorized by the tourism bureau, said foreign visitors who take part in the Olympic Homestay program must also sign up for a tour package, but he did not elaborate.

Last year, a trial run of the selection process for the homestay program, involving 41 families, was conducted in the Asian Games village community of Beijing, where the National Stadium is located.

"Most of the families had no problems communicating in English and lots of them were keen to show off their cooking and martial arts skills, and knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine," a community official surnamed Cai said.

Zhang Yizhuo, who has applied for the homestay program, said he stayed with an Australian family while attending the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

"The family I lived with was so warm, I was really impressed. So now I want to give foreign visitors the same warm welcome when Beijing hosts the Games," he said.

Another applicant, Han Rubing, said she and her husband are both fluent in English and are keen to be involved in the program.

"It is very meaningful to do something for the Olympic Games, especially helping foreigners to get a better understanding of China and its people," Han said.

Despite earlier concerns that Beijing will not have enough hotel rooms to accommodate the estimated 2.5 million visitors to the Olympic Games, including about 500,000 foreigners, Xiong said the city will be able to cope.

The Homestay program is more about cultural exchanges between people, he said.

Source: China Daily

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