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China's outbound tourism feels flu impact, travel agencies worried
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13:57, May 16, 2009

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The flow of outbound tourists in China has largely decreased due to people's concern over A/H1N1 flu, Saturday's China Daily reported.

Group tours to Chinese mainland travelers' favorite destinations such as Hong Kong, Japan, the republic of Korea, the United States., Europe, Australia and Southeast Asia dropped the most, Zhang Qingzhu, market manager with China Comfortable Travel Services told the paper.

The decrease in the number of tourists was so drastic that she wouldn't like to give any figures, according to Zhang.

"Tours to almost all overseas destinations have seen a big drop, though many of these places have not reported even a single case of A/H1N1 infection," Zhang said.

The number of Chinese mainland citizens signing up with China Travel International for tours to Hong Kong in the first two weeks of May fell by 80 percent, according to Xiao Hong, the agency's department manager.

The outbreak of the flu also imposed a forced holiday on travel agency employees. Statistics from Beijing-based China M&R Special Tours showed about 40 percent of the firm's tour guides and group leaders saw no work because of the flu scare.

This was in contrast with last May, when the agency had to borrow extra employees from other companies to meet the demand, said M&R manager Shen Dahai.

Most industry insiders, however, told China Daily the flu would not hurt tourism as much as SARS did.

Li Xinjian, a professor with the School of Tourism Management of Beijing International Studies University, said transparent government reporting on the flu cases helped tourists choose the right destinations.

"At least we are getting some business now. During the SARS outbreak, tour agencies had to shut down operations," said Shen, who has been in the business for two decades.

Source: Xinhua

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