China Sees Boost From Clinton Visit

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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.

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