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France gains from surge in Chinese tourists

3 November 2007

France is making good money from an increased inflow of tourists from China.

The boom in tourist arrivals from China follows a special access provision extended to the European Union.

Sources in the French tourism business say that, every day thousands of Chinese tourists arrive in Paris, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. The visitors are keen to take pictures of each other in front of landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

And, these Chinese tourists, as a rule, stay in two-star hotels in the suburbs of Paris.

Figures show that, Chinese tourists visiting France spend an average of $3,000 a day during their hectic two-day/four-day visits.

In 2004, the European Union received the “approved destination status,” – meaning that visits of Chinese tour-group could be arranged through agencies acceptable to the Chinese government.

According to data available with the French tourism business, around 820,000 Chinese tourists visited France in 2006 – the first year in which separate statistics for China were recorded.

The government of France says that the data shows “exceptionally strong growth.” However, the European Union has reportedly cautioned that statistics across Europe are unreliable and that early indications suggest that the special status has not yet fetched the widespread gains expected.

French media reports quoted a spokeswoman for Maison de la France, the French government’s tourist agency, which opened an office in Beijing in 2000, as saying that some in the tourist industry are “not overly excited.” For most of the Chinese visitors, she added, “fancy hotels” are not very important. “What is important for them is shopping, taking photographs in front of the main monuments, and seeing the most number of things as possible in a short period of time.”

France is one of about 100 countries that have reached bilateral travel agreements with China. Canada, however, is not on the list, even though Canada was among the first to apply. The United States does not have the “approved destination status.”

Reports from Canada say that, even without the approved destination status, Canada has been witnessing a steady growth in tourist arrivals from
China in recent years. In all, 121,000 Chinese tourists visited Canada in 2005 – a 15% increase over the previous year – and 148,000 tourists in 2006, a 22% rise over 2005.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government gave the “approved destination status” to Papua New Guinea on November 1, 2007, which allows Chinese travel agencies to organise group travel to the southwest Pacific Ocean nation, which comprises over 600 islands.

So far, the Chinese government has given the status to 132 nations and regions, of which 91 have already started receiving Chinese tourists.

China is Asia’s biggest source of tourism, with over 34 million Chinese visitors traveling out of the country in 2006.






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