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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 July 2005, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
First China tourists arrive in UK
Tower of London
The Duke of York will welcome the visitors at the Tower of London
The first Chinese visitors to travel to Britain on tourist visas have arrived in London.

A group of 80 tourists from China flew into Heathrow Airport on their package tour on Sunday.

Until now mainly students and business delegates have been allowed to travel to the UK but this year Beijing said it was an "approved destination".

British tourism officials are hopeful the new status could bring 500m a year by 2020 to the UK economy.

On Monday, the 40 tourists from Shanghai and another 40 from Beijing are expected to receive a royal welcome from the Duke of York Prince Andrew at the Tower of London.

Lengthy negotiations

New relaxed rules now mean anyone able to afford the costs can buy a holiday from an approved tour operator.

In 2004, 135,000 Chinese citizens travelled to the UK, mainly for business or study reasons or to visit family.

Britain, with only 0.6% of China's total outbound tourism market, is ranked behind Germany and France, each with more than 1%.

These percentages seem small because the vast majority of Chinese overseas tourists still travel within Asia.

In January, after 20 months of negotiations, the UK signed an agreement allowing Chinese group tours to visit Britain following the lead of other European Union member countries.

The new status also allows destination countries to open offices in China to promote travel to their country.

Chinese tourists give their views on London

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