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Free sightseeing tickets prove a big attraction

Over 1.2 million domestic and international Internet users applied for the 300,000 free sightseeing e-coupons offered by the Beijing Tourism Bureau during the Chinese New Year.



Foreign tourists visit the Temple of Heaven. Beijing wants to attract more international tourists, by offering e-coupons.

Tourists from the US led the applications from overseas, with 2,695 applicants from the US applying for the free tickets to 58 of the city's attractions. This was three times the number of British applicants, which was the second highest. Applications from Australia, South Korea and France completed the international top five.

Since the New Year until this Monday, about 45,000 free tickets had been used and about 100 foreign passport holders enjoyed their free tours.

Yu Lintang, director of the Beijing Tourist Information Center, said all the free tickets were delivered as multimedia messages or digital codes to mobile phone users in China, so foreign beneficiaries had to be staying in China during February.

Following the success of the scheme, the tourism authority is planning to provide more free services targeting international tourists in the future.

"The next step, will be to add more free service items such as free hotel rooms especially for foreign travelers," he said.

"If domestic tourists contribute about 100 million yuan to Beijing each year, international travelers bring $100 million to the capital each year.

"International tourists are an important source of Beijing's tourism economy, and we are aiming to make our service more attractive to international travelers," he said.

The scheme also benefited the actual places of interest. The CCTV tower was one of the most popular attractions, welcoming about 25,000 visitors, including 5,000 free ticket users, 50 percent more than during Spring Festival last year.

"It was a big success for us this year," Zhao Yudong, the general manager of CCTV tower, said on Tuesday. "The free tickets certainly brought us more visitors during the holiday. We made 1.32 million yuan in February, 43 percent more than the same period last year."

Zhao also pointed out that the days after the Chinese New Year are usually the quietest, but that around 1,500 travelers visited the tower last Saturday, two days before the free tickets expired.

Wang Yufen, 60, from Beijing, was one of the 300,000 successful applicants. She visited Happy Valley with her family during the Spring Festival holiday.

"Once we think about traveling, we usually prefer to go somewhere far away. The free ticket brought our interest back to Beijing and gave us a chance to explore and enjoy the beautiful local sights," she said.