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   Chinese visitor numbers to UAE likely to increase

The UAE's tourism industry is being urged to prepare for a large number of arrivals from China as the Chinese outbound market expands in tandem with rapid economic growth. Chinese tourists mostly travel to destinations within the region such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea and Japan but they are increasingly ready to explore places in other regions, Gulf News quoted industry experts as saying.

"Travel is becoming a routine from once-in-a-lifetime experience, but Chinese travellers are still in Asia because of geographical proximity," Grace Pan, a senior manager at market research firm ACNielsen in China, said in a presentation to the travel trade in Dubai.

Pan said the number of outbound Chinese tourists was 34 million last year. Her research has identified 26 big and medium-size Chinese cities as important sources of outbound travel. "They have money and they are willing to travel. There are opportunities for the UAE to attract Chinese tourists but you have to compete with other destinations," she said, adding that the UAE will gain as a tourist spot in China after it receives the approved destination status (ADS) from Beijing.

ADS is a bilateral agreement that allows the destination country to promote itself in China and open a tourist office. It also facilitates group tours from China and easy visa issuance.

China has this agreement with about 130 countries and discussions are under way with the UAE. Dubai hotels received 68,272 Chinese tourists from January to September this year, an increase of 48 per cent over the same period in 2006, according to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

Among the destinations favoured by Chinese tourists outside Asia are France, Britain, Australia, Italy and Germany. Pan said UAE hotels and travel agents should try to understand Chinese outbound travel trends in order to benefit the huge market. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)

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