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Chinese Officials Hope Olympics Will Boost Tourism


Chinese officials say the Beijing Olympics should bring a welcome boost to China's tourist industry. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Beijing, that while bureaucratic requirements and natural disasters have slowed tourism, officials say an upgraded infrastructure will help the industry after the games.

An army of smiling volunteers is here to welcome visitors, and legions of taxi drivers struggle with limited English to get spectators to Olympic venues.

A recent crackdown on dissidents, unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang province, and tightened visa restrictions may have dissuaded some potential visitors from coming to China.

Chinese tourism official Wang Zhifa says Beijing hotels have an occupancy rate of 81 percent, lower than at peak times. But he says that based on past Olympics, the peak in tourism could come after the games end August 24.

He says Chinese tourism was hurt by the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province in May, which killed nearly 70,000 people and left millions homeless. Thousands more are missing.

The official says the earthquake cost Sichuan's tourist industry $6.8 billion.

He says more than 1,300 hotels and 8,000 shopping outlets and tourist facilities in Sichuan were damaged in the earthquake.

Still, he says, China's tourism was up two percent in the first seven months this year. He says facilities upgraded for the Olympics and added training for hospitality workers are helping the industry, not only in Beijing but other cities. He predicts that tourism in Sichuan province will rebound in three years, bolstered by planned attractions that include an earthquake museum.

An American tourist was killed in Beijing Saturday and his wife was seriously injured by a man described by police as distraught over family problems. The woman suffered multiple stab wounds and remains in hospital. A Chinese tour guide was also wounded.

Beijing Olympic officials call the attack an isolated incident and say China is safe for tourists. China has been rising through the ranks of world tourist destinations, and Chinese officials hope it will overtake the United States, Spain and first-place France as the world's most popular destination sometime in the next decade.

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