WTTC: China tourism to experience rebound

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BEIJING -- China's inbound tourism industry will grow by as much as 22% in 2004 as it rebounds from SARS, and by 10% a year thereafter, according to a World Travel and Tourism Council study.

However, China must beef up its tourism infrastructure, invest more in worker training and create more partnerships with the private sector in order to cope with the anticipated demand, the WTTC warned.

"China has the potential to become one of the world's great tourism economies" in terms of inbound, outbound and domestic travel, the report said.

But the isolation of China prior to the opening of its markets and its entry into mainstream economic and political circles, such as the World Trade Organization, means China will be playing catch-up with its tourism product in the coming years, the report said.

"Despite its success to date (excluding the SARS period), the [tourism] industry requires a new vision of openness, collaboration and cooperation between the public and private sectors," the report said.

The WTTC report said China's tourism industry has returned to its pre-SARS numbers but noted that the economic fallout from the disease was devastating.

According to the report, SARS cost the industry 28 million jobs and $7.6 billion. Overall, SARS cost the Chinese economy an estimated $20 billion.

As for Hong Kong, tourism has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy in recent years. Last year, the number of visitors increased by 21%. The Hong Kong Tourism Board is forecasting a growth rate in excess of 8% this year.

To contact reporter Jorge Sidron, send e-mail to [email protected].

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