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Leisure market mirrors provincial progress
Latest Updated at 2008-December-2 10:37:03

To mark the 30th anniversary of China's opening-up and reform policies, the Guangdong provincial government held its first forum on modern tourism on Nov 28, part of the ongoing 2008 Guangdong International Tourism and Culture Festival.

Organized by the Guangdong tourism administration, Sun Yat-sen University and Hong Kong's Phoenix Television, the forum hosted by Wu Xiaoli, a well-known TV anchor from Hong Kong, was a highlight of the festival.

Experts at discussion noted that in the past three decades, Guangdong created an "economic development miracle", transforming itself from a poor agricultural province into an affluent international investment destination.

The event included speeches by Huang Huahua, governor of Guangdong, Shao Qiwei, minister of the National Tourism Administration, Francesco Frangialli, general-secretary of World Tourism Organization, Liu Changle, chairman and CEO of Phoenix Television and Zheng Detao, the Party secretary of Sun Yat-sen University.

Like its industrial output, the province's tourism sector had humble beginnings. Early in 1978 a Friendship Store was opened, but Guangdong lacked other international amenities, including hotels.

Hong Kong tycoon Fok Yingtung suggested building a five-star hotel, which was approved by Guangzhou's authorities. In 1983, the Guangzhou White Swan Hotel, the first five-star hotel in the mainland, opened its doors .

Also that year, Guangdong residents were for the first time allowed to visit Hong Kong and Macao, the first mainland tourists to make outbound visits.

In 1989, China's economy faced difficulties, but the nation's first theme park, Splendid China, still opened that year, developed by Shenzhen OCT group. The park was a 4.8-sq-km site in Shenzhen's Nanshan district that is also home to Window of the World and Happy Valley, a miniature depiction of the country's history and vast landscape.

In the 1990s, Guangdong's tourism developed rapidly as private tourism businesses ushered in a period of prosperity.

Of about 140 hot spring resorts then in the province, more than 90 were owned by private companies. A large number of private hotels and private travel service agencies emerged as well.

In the 21st century, the tourism industry of Guangdong is becoming more international and in synch with world trends.

More tourism opportunities have been developed with Hong Kong, Macao and the Pearl River Delta. Inbound and outbound tourist numbers in Guangdong continue to top the whole country.

Tourism is also helping less-developed cities in the province rise from poverty.

The yearly Guangdong International Tourism and Culture Festival has become a banner for the province to promote tourism and become better known globally.

The province now has 964 travel agencies, 203 of which are international, 1,181 star-rated hotels, including 57 five-star hotels and one platinum five-star hotel and more than 200 popular travel destinations, two of which ranked five-A and 48 rated four-A.

Editor: Yan

By: Liang Qiwen Source: China Daily Website
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