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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Europe opens up to Chinese tourists
By Francis Markus
BBC correspondent in Shanghai

Gondolas in Venice
Venetian gondoliers may see an increase in Chinese tourists
Many countries in Europe are getting ready for what they expect will be a huge influx of Chinese tourists.

An agreement came into effect on Wednesday allowing Chinese tour groups to visit 29 European nations.

Until now, Chinese tour groups have only been admitted if they apply as business delegations.

Now Chinese people will be able to buy a tour to Western Europe for $1,600 or less, off the shelf.

The opening up of so many European countries unlocks whole new vistas for the narrow but growing slice of the population with the disposable income to take advantage of it.

The Chinese media have been packed with information whetting people's appetites and warning of the possible snags.

TV cameras have followed local travellers as they sample a Venetian gondola ride - and they have even shown people how to carry their bags so they won't be pick-pocketed.

They have told people they will have to pay several times more for their can of Coca Cola than in China, and featured Chinese restaurant managers in Europe reassuring them that they will be able to find their hometown food.

The country has already seen a boom in cheap travel to South East Asia.

It is hard to characterise the cultural effects, although easier to tally the vital economic impact on China's neighbours.

Now it's the turn of Europeans to come into increasing contact with yet another facet of China's international presence - albeit through the distorting mirror that mass tourism so often seems to provide.




SEE ALSO:
Europe woos China's tourists
14 Nov 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Europe boosts China ties
30 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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