Not so forbidding: China opens its doors to package operators

The tour operator that brought you the Costa Brava is venturing a touch further - 6,000 miles to the east to be precise.

Airtours is offering the first cheap and cheerful beach holidays to China.

At £800 for a two-week break, the company is urging you to visit Sanya resort on Hainan island in the South China Sea.

While upmarket operators have been offering cultural tours to the People's Republic for the well-to-do, Airtours is keen that those with shallower pockets get a chance to sample the delights of the world's most populous country.

The package envisaged by the tour operator is likely to appeal to those not yet ready for total immersion in Oriental culture. The hotel chains used by Airtours include the Sheraton, Marriott, Holiday Inn and Novotel. "International" and Chinese food will be available. However, the climate - "tropical monsoonal" - is agreeably exotic.

There are drawbacks. The flights take 15 hours with a stop-off in Bahrain and it is recommended that visitors should be vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, hepatitis A, typhoid and, for some areas, malaria. For those of a bibulous disposition, however, a glass of beer can cost as little as 70p.

The charge also includes two nights in Beijing with the opportunity to visit the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall of China, the Silk Market and Tiananmen Square. Robust political discourse is generally discouraged, particularly while on a visit to the famous square.

The Communist regime's reputation for authoritarianism, however, has not discouraged tourists. In 2004 China took over Italy's position as the world's fourth most visited country on earth. It is predicted that by 2020 it will be the most visited on earth.

The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing is expected to act as a catalyst. And so is the plan for a Walt Disney theme park in Shanghai, due for completion in 2012, although the coastal city's polluted air may deter the fastidious.

Steve Barrass, the managing director of Airtours, said the company had extended its operations in Goa, Cuba and Brazil and saw China as a logical step. He pointed out that Hainan was known as the Hawaii of the East because it was on the same latitude and had a similar climate. The company plans to operate four flights a month to the Chinese resort from Gatwick and Manchester.

It is expected that other operators will develop packages around other Chinese coastal resorts.

Peter McHugh, the chief executive of MyTravel, which owns Airtours, said it would be cautious about further expansion in the region. "It's a question of taking small steps. But Hainan has the infrastructure we need."

Tour operators with a view to the future are spreading their wings to every corner of the earth. Some are even keeping an eye on the potential for war zones. A dozen years ago only the armed forces, the intrepid and the foolish ventured to Croatia. Now the beautiful Adriatic coastline is teeming with tourists. Other parts of the old Yugoslavia are beginning to enjoy a peace dividend - although Serbia is still suffering from the murderous shadow cast by its war criminals.

According to Frances Tuke of the Association of British Travel Agents, even Pakistan could well become an attractive destination when its snow-clad mountains start to lure skiers rather than mujahedin.

How People's Republic welcomes tidy visitors

By Simon Calder

China made its first tentative, grudging steps 25 years ago to develop tourism, when independent travellers were allowed in.

Getting around ranged from fraught to impossible; hotels were poor and over-priced; and the agenda of "attractions'' revolved around the achievements of Communism.

Even the seaside was off-limits: the nearest good beach to Beijing, at Bedahei, was reserved for Party officials.

Like everything else in 21st century China, tourism is a work in progress. But today the Western visitor is welcomed on the beaches of Bedahei, in the palaces of Beijing and Xian and on the strongest, longest suit of all - the Great Wall. The world's finest frontier is so popular that a one-way system for sightseers is used in the most crowded sections - where visitors are also asked to "observe social morality and keep your own things well in order".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee