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Tourism year proves a big hit

Updated: 2013-11-20 01:03
By Cao Yin ( China Daily)

Tourism year proves a big hit

Students from an art school in Moscow perform folk dances during a cultural exchange with 100 Chinese students in January. The program, which took place in Moscow, was one of a series of activities rolled out in the Russia-China Tourism Year. Jiang Kehong/Xinhua 

Tours between China and Russia have become popular since their 'tourism year' in 2012, travel agencies said on Friday.

The tourism year is a new strategy to improve the Sino-Russian strategic cooperative partnership and boost friendship between the countries, the China National Tourism Administration said in a recent statement.

Since the tourism year began on March 22, almost 400 activities, including summer camps and business studies, have been conducted in the two countries, attracting large numbers of visitors to engage in cross-border travel, the statement said.

From January to September, exchange visits between the two countries totaled 2.37 million, the statement said.

Thanks to the policy, the number of Chinese travelers joining tour groups to Russia rose more than 50 percent over last year, said Gao Zhiquan, vice-president of China Youth Travel Service.

The tours focus mainly on Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the company has come up with new activities to improve cultural exchanges, said Diao Shuang, manager of the agency's European Travel Department.

"We prefer tour projects that can improve interactions between people in the two nations, such as having Chinese tourists stay in Russian-style wooden houses and make Matryoshka (Russian nesting) dolls," Diao said.

"It's also easy to go to Russia under the policy," he said. "Chinese citizens must only provide a copy of their passport's front page in order to enjoy their Russia trip."

Rao Tian, manager of the European Travel Department of China International Travel Service, echoed Diao, saying trips to Russia have become his company's most popular tours.

Chinese tourists going to Russia last year rose by 30 percent compared with 2011, and most travelers opted for an eight-day trip, according to Rao.

In the busiest month, the company sent almost 10 tour groups to Russia, and its hotline received hundreds of calls, he said.

"We are studying some new travel routes, such as visiting Lake Baikal and the Volga River," he said, adding that the price of an eight-day trip increased to 15,000 yuan ($2,460) per person last year and is still going up.

Tan Diqiang, a 63-year-old from Changsha, Hunan province, went to Russia with his wife in August and told China Daily that the seven-day tour left the couple with great memories.

The retired pair went to Moscow and St. Petersburg with a tour group of 36 people, visiting famous sites and taking part in cultural activities.

"In the beginning, we chose Russia for its cool weather in summer, but its beautiful scenery and museums enriched our trip," he said, adding that he will recommend the trip to others.

Chinese tourism bureaus, including those in Beijing and Hainan, developed summer camps for Chinese and Russian youth in June, while a Shanghai authority held a China-Russia sports meeting in July, the tourism administration statement said.

Also during the tourism year, 120 Russian business people visited China from July to October, studying travel lines and tourism products, the statement said.

To better promote the tour year project, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Public Security have simplified visa procedures for Russians and increased the number of tour groups at travel agencies, it added.

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