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Foreign tourism firms target Chinese

Foreign travel agencies who have pinned their hopes on Chinese tourists lifting the flagging holiday market flocked to a major trade fair in the city yesterday.

The four-day Guangzhou International Travel Fair has attracted more than 200 firms and tourism authorities from 40 countries all looking to boost business during the economic slowdown, organizers said.

Although smaller in size this year, it has already proven the city's most popular travel fair so far, with the United States for the first time sending a delegation.

"We believe the fair will help revive the tourism industry after the global economic meltdown," said Wang Qingliang, vice-governor of Guangdong province, at the opening ceremony yesterday.

Before the fair, California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC) announced the establishment of a Guangzhou base and signed a memorandum of understanding with the provincial tourism authority. It will be the first of its three China branches - the others being in Beijing and Shanghai - to start operations.

"We are expecting more Chinese travelers to the state of California to help revive the industry," said Caroline Beteta, CEO of CTTC. "With the loosening visa restrictions and the planned increase of airlines commuting between China and the gateway cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, we are expecting to spur continuous growth of the Chinese travelers.

"The new offices will create a win-win for both China and California. We will work more closely with the Chinese tourism industry on marketing and promotion."

China and the United States signed an agreement in Dec 2007 to allow group travel to the US and enable the US to conduct promotional campaigns in China.

Qin Tianyu, general manager of the China office of the US-based Diamond International Travel Agency, said: "The Chinese tourism market, which is also affected by the economic slowdown, is expected to recover soon. We are expecting a growth spur here."

(China Daily March 27, 2009)