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No Gold: Visits to China Down in 2008 Despite Olympics

The number of visitors to China dropped by two million last year to 130 million, despite the enormous fanfare and draw of the 2008 Olympics. It was the first decline in visitor numbers since 2003, when an outbreak of SARS knocked the country off desired vacay location lists.

The slump has been attributed to the weak economy, which hasn't been kind to the tourism industry as a whole, stricter visa restrictions before the Beijing Olympics, as well as a May earthquake in the southwest of the country.

Only 389,000 foreign tourists visited Beijing the month of the games, including travelers from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, according to the Beijing tourism bureau. That number is much smaller than the 500,000 the bureau expected. China built the world's largest airport terminal before the Olympics and most of the major hotels in Beijing underwent costly renovations and changes from top to bottom.


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