Asia & South Pacific

China Takes Center Stage

written by | Posted on December 1st, 2009

There’s no denying that when the so-called Bamboo Curtain fell, China re-entered the world stage with a vengeance. Presently, China has the world’s fastest-rising economy. Its cities—practically unchanged since the time when dynasties flourished centuries ago—are booming, modern places running contrary to the austere Maoism that once ruled the country, and its airports and sea gateways are thronged with tourists. Still, just as in Marco Polo’s days, China is a potent, somewhat mysterious and magnetic destination.

Fittingly, it has earned accolades as the Best Selling Destination in Asia in Recommend’s Readers’ Choice Awards for the fourth straight year. This is hardly surprising, for China offers one of the few bright spots in the travel business, despite the economic hits the industry has taken. China promises to remain a popular destination because of its cultural allure and more than 5,000 years of recorded history.

According to Dawei Wu, deputy director of the China National Tourist Office in Los Angeles, Americans have a soft spot for travel within the country. “Although Chinese cities are rapidly equipping themselves with soaring glass-and-steel modern buildings and all signs point to an urbanized future, the history will remain [because] every Chinese is proud of the historical longevity of their homeland.”

Of course, its recognized landmarks such as the Great Wall and Beijing’s Forbidden City are well known and deserving of their fame, but other lesser-known landmarks are beginning to attract tourists eager to explore the wonders of China.

“In Tianjin, about 75 miles southeast of Beijing,” says Wu, “travelers can walk among more than 2,000 buildings of different styles brought from European countries built in the 1920s and 30s. They are praised as the ‘Museum of Architectural Styles in the World.’

“In Shanghai to the south, one finds a skyline full of skyscrapers. The city is currently China’s leading business city and, fittingly, will host the 2010 World Expo, expected to attract 70 million people from all over the world and is on line to generate the largest number of visitors in the history of world’s fairs.”

According to the World Tourism Organization, China welcomed a mere 230,000 foreign tourists in 1978. Barely 29 years later, more than 55 million foreigners arrived—and the flood shows no sign of abating.

The WTO report goes on to declare that China will become the largest tourist destination by 2020, although the organization predicts that may occur as early as 2014. According to Xu Jing, WTO’s Asia-Pacific representative, “In terms of foreign visitor arrivals, China is on course to overtake the U.S., the world’s number three tourist destination, in 2010.” He adds that the “Asian giant will most likely pass number two Spain by the end of the decade.”

The wonders of the country are well documented and while its tremendous appeal has not diminished and may seem like low-hanging fruit for travel agents and tour operators, sending tourists to the country requires the proficiency of travel specialists with extensive knowledge and connections.

Enter Globus, the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award as the Best Tour Operator, Asia—it’s the third consecutive year it’s garnered this award. According to Jennifer Halboth, marketing director for the Globus family of brands, this success is due to the care Globus takes in preparing its tours.

“We are the only major tour operator to create a custom website (escapetochina.com) specifically for promoting travel to China,” she says. “Agents and travelers alike can learn here about the different cities, including population, climate, attractions, etc. The website also addresses all concerns and tips for traveling within China.”

Halboth underlines that directing travelers to China requires a great deal of preparation and care. “Globus combines exceptional inclusions, superior hotels, expert local tour directors who are consistently rated high by travelers, and unique excursions at price points that deliver the greatest value,” she says.

“The local expertise of a specialist operator coupled with the volume buying power, service and support of a worldwide tour operator, makes Globus the ideal choice for agents sending clients to Asia,” Halboth adds.

In keeping with the growing demand for China travel, Globus has recently unveiled 11 diverse itineraries that give extraordinary glimpses of Asia and of China in particular.

“Those itineraries are wonderfully diverse,” she explains. “For example, the Treasures of Japan and China tour is unique within the industry, as it goes beyond merely adding Tokyo to China by including Hakone and Kyoto. And this year, Globus introduced the ideal entry tour to China. Essence of China (from $1,599 pp, including intra-tour flights) provides a perfect overview to Asia’s most popular country with three nights in Beijing, two nights in Xi’an and two nights in Shanghai.”