GLENDALE, Calif. -- President Clinton's recent trip to China
sparked consumer interest in visiting the mainland, officials at
the China National Tourist Office here said.
"I think the media coverage will help more and more American
people to know more about China," said Li Yaying, deputy director
of the CNTO's Los Angeles-area office, adding "especially the
present situation and the developments that have taken place in
China since we adopted the Open Door policy 20 years ago."
Li said her office already has noticed a bounce in consumer
inquiries about the specific route the president and his family
took on the trip. "Actually, I think the places he visited are the
most popular tourist attractions, especially in the U.S. market,"
she said. "It's called a Golden Travel Route because most of the
visitors visiting China are choosing this route [Beijing, Xian,
Shanghai and Guilin]. It's very popular.
"We are having more calls [to the office], and also on our
automatic [telephone] information system, and we can tell from the
computer that we are getting more calls than two or three weeks
ago. A lot of tourists called my office to ask for brochures on
Beijing, Xian, Shanghai and Guilin."
The other top Chinese tourism draws, Yangtze River cruising and
the Silk Road, were not included on the presidential itinerary,
although the ancient capital city of Xian -- the starting point of
the ancient Silk Road trading route -- was featured on the first
day of Clinton's trip. Clinton also paid a visit to Hong Kong, the
"newest" Chinese city, on the last day of his tour.
Li said a number of U.S.-based tour operators -- including
Pacific Delight, Pacific Bestour, Orient Flexi Pax, Japan &
Orient Tours and Grand American Tours-- are using the trip to
promote the destination. San Francisco-based Just Holiday has plans
to post the president's itinerary on its Web site (www.justholiday.com, (888) 397-9988 or fax (800)
287-9879), along with information about its packages based on the
First Family's journey.
Raymond Siu, president of Just Holiday, said many Americans
still are unfamiliar with, or have negative impressions of the
Middle Kingdom. "Of course, I'm Chinese and I'm very familiar with
China, but other people aren't familiar with China and they never
visit China. It's a mystery for them," he said. "I believe a lot of
people are getting to know China a little better."
Siu said the main concerns U.S. travelers have about China are
its facilities and their personal safety. "When they travel abroad,
I have a phrase: 'A home away from home,' " Siu said of Americans'
desire for familiarity on the road. "When they see the president
visiting those cities it generates interest to go, and especially
because the air fare to Asia is cheap compared to places like
Europe. Even in summer [high season] it's about $600. In September,
October and November it's even cheaper, so the package becomes very
reasonable." Just Holiday's presidentially inspired itineraries can
be sold either as an entire trip or as packages to individual
cities, Siu said.