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VOA Asia Weekly: Foreign Tourists Reluctant to Travel to China

VOA Asia Weekly: Foreign Tourists Reluctant to Travel to China
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US Commerce Secretary visits China. Foxconn founder running for Taiwan's presidency as independent. Why vacationers are hesitant to return to China. How to sleep like a giraffe.

Why foreign tourists are reluctant to vacation in China.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is coming up, but first, making headlines:

"I'm the first commerce secretary to be on the ground in five years. So that says it all.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo wrapped up a four-day visit to China on Wednesday. She said that the two countries have agreed to launch a commercial issues working group expected to meet several times a year. Several U.S. officials have visited China recently, trying to repair relations that are at their lowest point due to disputes on a wide range of issues.

Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Foxconn --- a major Apple supplier --- said Monday he is entering the race to be Taiwan's next president as an independent candidate in the 2024 elections. Gou must gather close to 300,000 voter signatures by November 2 to qualify.

India said on Tuesday that it had lodged a strong protest with China over a new official "standard map" showing the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin plateau as China’s territory, the latest disagreement between the two Asian giants.

Indonesia's high speed rail line launched on Monday. The project, part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, was originally set to be completed by 2019. The delaying problems included a $1.2 billion cost overrun.

Toyota restarted production on Wednesday at all 14 assembly plants in Japan. It blamed a production system malfunction for the Tuesday incident that halted assembly lines. A spokesperson said it didn’t seem to be a cyberattack.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday invited several Cabinet ministers for a sashimi lunch in his office. The seafood served was caught off Fukushima Prefecture, in a show of support for the area after Beijing banned all of Japan's seafood imports after the release of treated radioactive water from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The number of tourists visiting China is a fraction of the level before the coronavirus pandemic – despite the country fully opening to foreign visitors in March. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA on why vacationers are reluctant to return.

In a recent broadcast, Chinese state television said the country was witnessing a domestic tourism boom.

But there are few foreigners among the Chinese vacationers. In Shanghai, official figures show foreign visitor numbers are just a quarter of their pre-pandemic level in 2019.

China’s ‘zero-COVID’ policy closed the country to foreign tourists until March this year.

London-based Wendy Wu Tours is a leading operator for Asian tours. Its founder says customer demand for trips to China is 35 to 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“People are thinking, 'How about the pandemic? During that time (there was) the very strict lockdown. Would I be locked down?' And of course not. But people are worried about that. Sometimes because of political reasons - the governments felt not very friendly, among China and the West relations – and that has certainly impacted the customers’ decision to go or not.”

But Wu insists foreign tourists will get a warm welcome in China.

“Now, because there’s so few, so they are asked to take a photo wherever they go and treated like a celebrity, like 30 years ago, and it is incredible.”

China was a major destination for Japanese tourists and business travelers before the pandemic. But demand from the island nation has also failed to return, says Yoko Hayano of JTB Tourism Research and Consulting.

“Since the coronavirus pandemic, all air routes have not yet been restored. The number of airline seats available [to China] is still only about 30% compared with 2019, so there is a big impact.”

Meanwhile, Japan is experiencing a boom in foreign tourism.

China is trying to revive inbound tourism. Beijing and Washington have agreed to double the number of direct passenger flights to 24 per week from late October.

Henry Ridgwell, VOA News, London.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly. I’m Chris Casquejo.

Finally, check out something called Giraffepod in Tokyo. It's a sleeping pod the size of a phone booth. The pod has just enough space for one person and features cushions for the knees and behind, as well as a fold-down headrest, allowing the person to sleep while standing, just like a giraffe.