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Signs of Recovery Shown for China's Tourism Industry
China's tourism industry, one of the country's economic sectors victimized by the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) disease, has begun to pick up since the beginning of June as the epidemic has been on decline and is disappearing.

The National Tourism Administration (NTA) has decided to re-open the domestic tourism market gradually following the World Health Organization's (WHO) lifted its tourism advisory against Guangdong province on May 23.

The NTA also decided steadily to resume the work of organizing Chinese citizens traveling abroad and overseas tourists traveling in China in compliance with the SARS situation.

Since Guangdong-Hong Kong and Macao travel resumed in early June, Shenzhen city, neighboring Hong Kong, has seen a rapid rise in the number of tourist groups to and from Hong Kong. The city sent 36 tourist groups to Hong Kong on Jun. 1 alone.

Guangdong province was China's first province affected by SARS, with more than 1,500 people infected. Most of the SARS patients have been discharged from hospitals in the province.

Owing to the outbreak of SARS, all the province's tourism agencies suspended operations at the end of April.

There are more signals indicating the gradual recovery of the tourism industry.

The Beijing Safari Park re-opened to visitors on Jun. 7 after a two-month closure because of SARS and, in Hainan, an island province in south China, local tourists have begun flocking to attractions such as the tropical wildlife and plant park, and the coastal scenic spots in Sanya city at the southern tip of the island.

The outbreak of SARS dealt a severe blow to China's tourism industry. Statistics show that the country received 5.649 million tourists from overseas in April, 30 percent less than the figure for the same month of last year. The number of stay-over foreign tourists was only 1.82 million for April, a drop of 42 percent as compared with the same month last year.

The national capital, Beijing, hosted 18,000 tourists from overseas in May, a drastic decrease of 93.9 percent year-on-year.

To revive China's tourism industry, many provinces including southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and eastern Jiangsu province have launched tourism promotion activities, encouraging people to travel within their own provinces. Such programs have encouraged a large number of travelers.

The scenic zone around Qingcheng Mountain and Dujiang river Dam scenic zone in the southwestern Sichuan province, which has been cited on the World Natural and Cultural Heritage list, began to receive tourists from Jun. 1. More than 26,000 people from Sichuan traveled to the site that very day.

Jiuzhaigou, another World Natural Heritage site in Sichuan, attracted more than 10,000 native tourists that day, and the number of visitors to the elegant and lovely site have since begun to pick up.

More than 20 scenic spots in the province joined the tourism promotion activity of "Sichuan people traveling in Sichuan".

Meanwhile, east China's Jiangsu Province resumed in-province travel on Jun. 7. And more than 800 travel agencies in the province resumed business the same day.

In the latest development, over 30 travel agencies from across China signed a SARS control agreement Tuesday afternoon in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, in preparation for the rejuvenation of the industry.

The travel companies agreed to prioritize tourists' health and safety as the people are urged time and again to maintain their vigilance against the possible re-emergence of the SARS disease.

Incomplete statistics show that passenger numbers on flights between China's major tourist cities have resumed to the 50 to 90 percent of their levels prior to the SARS outbreak.

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