Access to China has never been easier as it seems new service is announced daily. Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved four new routes for 2009: American Airlines between Chicago and Beijing, Continental between New York / Newark and Shanghai, Northwest between Detroit and Shanghai and US Airways between Philadelphia and Beijing.
Further, paper airline tickets will soon be phased out of the domestic market after the International Air Transport Association stopped offering paper tickets for international routes to Chinese sales agencies in November, 2007. By the end of 2008, China is expected to become the first country to use only electronic air tickets on both domestic and international routes around the end of this year.
E-tickets accounted for 98 percent of all tickets sold on domestic routes on Ctrip.com, one of China’s largest Web-based travel agencies, and about 50 percent of international flights, according to a report that appeared recently in the Shanghai Daily.
IATA’s plan is to move toward all airlines around the world to stop using paper tickets by June 1, 2008, which would ostensibly save about $2.5 billion annually. IATA launched its drive for e-ticketing more than three years ago and already about 84 percent of travelers on IATA carriers fly without paper tickets.
Rail Rides in China
Right after the Summer Olympics 2008, a new luxury train operator will begin year-round services in China. Tangula Luxury Trains will offer passengers exclusive rail journeys to remote regions of China with three trains carrying a total of 96 guests each. The northerm route traverses the Tibetan plateau from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet (four nights). The southern route travels from Beijing to Lijiang, Yunna (four nights), exploring the scenery of Guangxi and Yunnan provinces. The remaining routes (three nights) go in the reverse direction on both routes.
New Attractions in an Ancient City
Currently about 100 miles of the Great Wall in Beijing is open to visitors, including the famous Juyongguan Pass and the Badaling, Simatai and Mutianyu sections of the Great Wall but millions are being spent to refurbish four scenic spots and to add six more.
As if this spectacular sight were not enough, by 2009 visitors will not only Climb the Great Wall, but will Fly the Great Wheel. Higher than both the London Eye and the Singapore Flyer, the Beijing Great Wheel, which opens in March, will tower 208 meters (682 ft) when finished in 2009. By then, it will be the highest and longest observation wheel in the world with 48 air-conditioned observation capsules, and on a good day even the Great Wall is expected to be visible from the wheel.
Victoria Cruises has refurbished the Victoria Empress this winter and will resume sailing this month. The multi-million-dollar refurbishment includes 99 refurbished cabins; the Grand Lobby located on the first floor of the ship now contains the front desk concierge, foreign exchange services, the shopping gallery; and a newly constructed Dynasty Dining Room with seating capacity for 198 passengers has been added; and A la carte dining services located in the multifunction room on the fourth deck.
“Every few years, we take the time to refresh and enhance our ships so everything remains top quality and impressive to our guests,” said Larry Greenman, for Victoria Cruises.
By 2009, the company will grow its fleet to eight vessels with the introduction of the new Victoria Jenna in April 2009. When she edges out of port on April 26, 2009, she will be the largest and most luxurious vessel plying Yangtze waters. The Victoria Jenna will sail the highly-acclaimed Three Gorges Highlights program, both upstream and downstream between Chongqing and Yichang, as well the round-trip Three Gorges Explorer itinerary sailing Chongqing – Yichang – Chongqing. The 2009 sailing dates for all eight ships are available online.
Post-Olympic Trips to the Moon
Sirius Travels, a company specializing in eclipse tours, said their first tour filled up so fast they had to open another one and are thinking about a third. The best place to see the eclipse is parts of Asia, and China is one of the prime destinations. As for the Chinese Space Agency, it is even offering a one-month space tour called the Boomerang Eclipse Sun Tour. Plans are afoot to funnel these funds toward their space agency and to test some of their equipment for an official lunar landing in 2020.
Robert Glazier, Product and Marketing Special Projects Manager, at Goway Travel, reports his company is operating Olympic packages from August 7-26. During this period, all package prices are considerably higher than other periods and accommodations are strictly available at a choice of only three hotels.
Among the offerings are programs ranging from seven days, Tibet in Depth starting at $1,488 per person double to the 13-day Journey to the Roof of the World priced from $3,246 per person double, an itinerary that includes Tibet. Pricing covers land arrangements and flights from Beijing to other parts of China.
“Goway’s pre and post Olympic packages can be taken any time outside of the Olympic period as they contain very interesting itineraries which will appeal to the traveler looking beyond the usual basic China offerings,” he added.
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts is offering four-night “Pre-Olympic Vacation” packages at its four Beijing properties through June 30.
All four packages feature visits to Olympic sites such as the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube. Highlights of the “Art and Sport” package include a Peking Opera School tour, dinner at the late Peking Opera Master Mei Lanfang’s private mansion and a tour of the renowned 798 Art District, a hub of Chinese contemporary art. Guests will also visit the Beijing Sport School, where they can watch China’s future Olympic medalists train.
The four packages range from $493 at the China World Hotel, Beijing; to $3,082 at the The Kerry Centre Hotel; $2,808 at the Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing; and $2,534 at Traders Hotel, Beijing. Visit www.shangri-la.com
China Travel Mart
Travel trade professionals interested in attending the upcoming China International Travel Mart scheduled for November 20 (Thursday) to November 23 (Sunday), to take place at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre, should contact the China National Tourist Offices in the U.S.