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Tourism hit as Beijingers stay home

updated: 2008-08-12

Beijingers are demonstrating their passion for the Olympics by staying home, and that is proving to be bad news for outbound tourism, industry insiders have said.

Lin Kang, deputy general manager of the outbound department of the China International Travel Service (CITS), said: "The outbound sector saw a slight increase in July, but in August it is down by 20-30 percent on last year."

July and August are gener-ally the peak months for outbound travel.
Several small-scale travel agencies have organized just two or three overseas travel groups this month, the Shanghai-based National Business Daily reported Monday.

The main reason is Olympic fever, which has gripped China this summer, Lin said.

"Many customers canceled their plans to travel abroad in favor of working as volunteers or simply staying home to watch the Games," he said.

But there are other reasons, such as a reduced number of tickets, fewer business travelers and the depressed stock market, insiders have said.

Zhang Qingzhu from CCT International Travel Service Ltd said airlines have reserved some seats on international flights for Olympic officials and athletes, which has cut the number on the market.

Furthermore, workers and officials at large State-owned companies and government departments - major con-sumers of incentive tours and business trips - have been ordered to "stay put" during the Games to ensure the city runs smoothly, Chen Xiaobing, general manager of Beijing Caissa International Travel Service Co Ltd, said.

Olympic fever has also hit business travel into and out of Beijing, leading to price cuts on many domestic flights.

"The day of the opening ceremony was the watershed for price plunges this month," Zhang Wei, an air ticket manager from online travel firm, said.

Passengers flying from Shanghai to Beijing on Aug 7 and 8 could get discounts of between 10 and 30 percent. But in the week after that, discounts of up to 60 percent were being offered, he said.

The good news for customers is that as ticket pries have fallen, tour firms have also cut the cost of their packages.

Zhang Lingjie, deputy man-ager of the domestic depart-ment of CITS, said the prices of almost all domestic tours - even to popular places like Yunnan and Hainan - have been cut.

"Last year, a four-day tour with return flights to Lijiang sold for about 4,700 yuan ($685). This year, the same tour is available for just 2,380 yuan," he said.

This has certainly helped the domestic tourism market, which was badly hit by the May 12 earthquake.

"There are now only a few places left on several tours to Hainan, but the market is still depressed overall," Zhang said.