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Yunnan to double tourist numbers

Visitors have a bite with the ethnic Jinuo people in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province. The province hopes to double the number of visitors this year with large-scale promotions of its beautiful locations and culture. [Xinhua]

The southwestern province of Yunnan received 2.5 million overseas visitors last year, up 12.8 percent from 2007, its tourism chief said yesterday.


Yu Dingcheng, the provincial tourism bureau director, told China Daily in an exclusive interview that he "intends to double that figure" in the near future to turn Yunnan into a hub for international travelers.


"Tourism has become a pillar industry of Yunnan," he said, adding that some 100 million trips, domestic and international, were made to the province in 2008, bringing in a revenue of 66.3 billion yuan ($9.9 billion).


Though already well-known in foreign countries for its World Heritage site, Old Lijiang Town, which is the world's deepest canyon, and other attractions like the Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La, Yu said the province wanted to expand its fame by making "a capital of recreation" out of it, with a slogan that reads: "Colorful Yunnan, Tourism Paradise of the World".


"We are aiming to attract 2.62 million overseas visitors this year, up 5.9 percent from 2008," he said.


Governor Qin Guangrong said last week that the province, known for its diversified culture comprising of 26 ethnic groups - the maximum for a Chinese province - should strive to see "110 million trips by domestic and international tourists in 2009, with an estimated cash revenue of 73 billion yuan".


"We want to attract more overseas tourists this year by nurturing new tourism products catering their needs, expanding promotion abroad and improving online publicity," Yu said.


He said more travel agencies will be encouraged to promote the new products, and scenic locations in major markets like Hong Kong, Macao and Southeast Asia.


"Moreover, we will better promote Yunnan online, as the Internet is now the most convenient channel for publicity.


"We will be happy to call Yunnan, a destination of international travelers, when we get at least 5 million overseas visitors a year," he said.


The tourism chief said they had termed 2009 as the "Year of Online Promotion" for the province's tourism sector, with online audio and visual documentation.


"I am sure we can better promote tourism via the Internet," Yu said.


The provincial government has allocated 5 million yuan as a special fund to award outstanding units and individuals who contribute to the expansion of Yunnan's tourism market this year, he said.


(China Daily February 17, 2009)