April 2005 issue

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China's tourism list enlarges

Canada and the UK are two of the countries to have recently agreed reciprocal Approved Destination Status (ADS) with China, which will open up significant opportunities for Chinese tourists keen to visit these countries. Previously, only certain visa holders, such as students or businesspeople, have been able to obtain a visa for visiting either country. Now, Chinese nationals will be able to travel on a tourist exit visa.

Both countries believe a significant increase in tourist numbers from China is likely. Australia, which received ADS in 1999, has seen Chinese arrivals double since then. In Canada, Minister of Industry, David Emerson, said, ''China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and the [ADS] recognition of Canada' has significant potential for the Canadian tourism industry.''

The UK welcomed 135,000 Chinese citizens last year, while there are an estimated 25 million Chinese with enough money to travel abroad, according to the BBC. Sources indicate that 20 million trips overseas were conducted by Chinese nationals in 2003 and according to the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), China could become the fourth largest source of international travellers by 2010, behind Germany, Japan and the USA.

Virgin Atlantic has announced it will increase its services from London Heathrow to Shanghai in October and launch a daily service to Beijing as soon as possible, following news of the ADS agreement. Richard Branson at Virgin Atlantic said, ''With China hosting the Olympics in 2008 we believe there will be huge demand for passengers who wish to take advantage of competitive fares and the quality of service that Virgin Atlantic offers.''

In February 2004, 13 other European countries received ADS from China, and since then, the 10 new European Union members and Ireland and Denmark, the other remaining European countries without the ADS sanction, have also been granted ADS, which also means that these countries can set up tourism offices in China.

Tom Wright, Chief Executive of VisitBritain in the UK, said, ''We have been developing a new pan-Asia [tourism] contact centre, based in Hong Kong, which includes new dedicated websites for the Chinese market.'' Tourism information offices have also opened in Shanghai and Beijing.

NZ extends visa-waiver status

Six new European Union (EU) countries can now benefit from visa waiver status with New Zealand. Prime Minister, Helen Clark, announced earlier this year that citizens of Poland, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will benefit from visa waiver status from April 1, which means tourists to the country do not need to obtain a visa before arriving for a short stay.

''New Zealand is only the second Western country, after Japan, to grant visa waivers to all 25 EU member states,'' said Clark. ''Granting visa free status reduces barriers to travel to New Zealand and enhances potential benefits from tourism, trade and bilateral relations.''

Rex Paddy at Languages International in Auckland, New Zealand, commented, ''Our view is that the new members of the EU will almost certainly increase the numbers of students going to the UK but countries like New Zealand, who have preferential entry for EU citizens, may also benefit.''

Budget airline in UAE flying high

Air Arabia, the first budget airline in the Gulf Arab region, broke even last year in its first year of operation. ''The results so far are beyond our expectations,'' said Chief Executive of the airline, Adel Ali. He added, ''We are living proof that the low-cost carrier model is overwhelmingly accepted by the public, [shown] by the more than half a million passengers we have carried.''

Air Arabia, which is owned by the government of the Sharjah emirate in the United Arab Emirates, flies to 15 destinations in the Middle East, Africa and Sri Lanka. It plans to launch flights to Mumbai in India soon.

Travel Update

A record seven million passengers travelled on the Eurostar service in 2004, up 15 per cent on 2003 figures. The Eurostar is the high-speed rail link between the UK, France and Belgium.

Kazakhstan is enforcing a switch of all foreign air traffic from old capital Almaty, near the Chinese border, to new capital, Astana, situated in the north of the country. Currently, Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Turkish Airlines and Russia's Transaero offer international flights operating to Kazakhstan.

China's fifth-largest airline, Shanghai Airlines, has revealed that its profits in 2004 more than doubled, compared with 2003 results. However, in the third quarter of 2004, the carrier's net earnings dropped 37 per cent year on year because of high oil prices.

Chilean carrier, LAN, has reported a rise in passenger traffic in January, compared with 2004 results for the same month. International passenger traffic was up by a significant 22.5 per cent, although domestic passenger traffic dwindled, due to reported changes in local routes available.

Ukrainian carrier, Aerosvit, has seen passenger numbers surge in 2004, thanks to new destinations offered and an expanded fleet. Passenger numbers grew from 697,084 in 2003 to just over 1 million in 2004.

In Hungary, national airline Malev has been in some difficulties, and four potential investors are reported to have made bids to purchase the loss-making airline, including Italy's Air One and Sky Alliance, a group primarily made up of former Malev pilots.

Senior officials at Boeing have pinpointed Asia as the main driver of business for building new commercial aircraft for the second year in a row. ''Right now, Asia is the furthest down the process of recovery. Traffic is huge, load factors are high, profits strong, airlines in Asia are buying airplanes,'' said Randy Tinseth, Director of Product and Services Marketing.

Singapore is aiming to boost visitors to the country with an ambitious marketing plan to reach the 8.9 million visitors mark this year, returning to pre-Sars figures seen in 2002. Most visitors were from Asia in 2004, according to the tourist board, with the main markets being Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia and Malaysia.

Poland has announced that it will sign up to the European Union (EU) Schengen agreement in 2007, which means that its nationals will be able to enjoy seamless travel within Schengen states. Poles will no longer have to present identity documents at the borders of most ''old'' EU countries, except the UK and Ireland, and some of the newer members, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As part of the agreement, Poland must strengthen its border controls with Belarus and Ukraine.

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