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China Continues to Welcome Visitors During Recovery Efforts

June 9, 2008 By: Mark Rogers Travel Agent

Early this past month, China
was rocked by a 7.9 magnitude quake that struck the southwestern region of Sichuan and the city of Chengdu. The death toll is a reported 55,000,
a figure that continues to rise daily as rubble is cleared and more victims are
discovered. The quake comes on the heels of disturbances in Tibet, and less
than three months before the start of the Beijing Summer Olympics.

Victoria Cruises,
a cruise company sailing China’s Yangtze River, immediately stepped up to the
plate to assist humanitarian relief efforts, donating excess inventory and
supplies, including much-needed clothing, towels and drinking water.

victoria cruise china

Dale and Donna Murphy were 6 miles from the epicenter when the earthquake hit; days later they continued with their Yangtze cruise on Victoria Empress

and the earthquake have made it a challenging year for the China travel
market,” says Jerry Pi, operating partner for Victoria Cruises. “It’s been even
further complicated by upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing.” In Pi’s experience, travel agents
aren’t seeing the Olympics as a plus, although he predicts that the benefits
will generally be felt in the months to come. He also notes that summer travel to
China will be affected by
the closing of Tibet
and the Panda Reserve.

As far as pre- and post-Olympics bookings for Victoria
Cruises, tour operators have found it difficult to find the hotel rooms they
need, since many hotels are charging Western rates in Beijing during August. “This doesn’t work for
tour operators,” says Pi. “It’s the same with air space. Carriers wouldn’t
release their blocks for tour operators. The situation is similar to that of
traveling during Thanksgiving in the states, when demand is at its highest.”

Pi observes that high fuel prices and the recession are
causing Americans to cut back on travel this summer, and opt for local rather
than long-haul trips. Luckily for Victoria Cruises, they’re picking up business
from other markets. “There’s enhanced purchasing power from around the world,
especially in Europe and Asia,” says Pi. “We
see a huge growth in the Asian market—they have the disposable income to

Fall is a very busy time for Victoria Cruises; September through November is the company's prime season.

“A lot of travelers postponed travel to Tibet and we anticipate pent-up demand. If they can’t get a fall booking, they’ll look at traveling March to June,” says Pi. “Those months are already looking very strong for us.”

Victoria Cruises has been part of the relief effort and in
the days to come will spearhead the rebuilding of two schools. The company is also
exploring the possibilities of donating a portion of each booking to the
earthquake relief fund.

"Minimal Disruption"
“We’ve had minimal disruption as a result of the earthquake,” says Richard Marnell, senior vice president of marketing for Viking River Cruises. Passengers are still traveling, and over the last seven days we’ve seen demand pick up for fall 2008 and into 2009.” Marnell notes that Viking River Cruises has also faced little difficulties booking seats and rooms as a result of the Beijing Summer Olympics, since August is a relatively slow month for the company, due to the hot weather.

Ritz Tours,
a U.S.-based tour company, reports that the recent earthquake in China had no impact on their operation of tours
throughout the country as well as
cruises along the Yangtze River. “All of our
passengers and personnel in China are safe and were not impacted by the
earthquake,” Our tours are not going into the epicenter areas impacted by the
earthquake and therefore everything is operating on schedule,” says Martin
, founder and president of Ritz Tours.

“After the earthquake, we received phone calls from people
concerned about traveling to China,
but we haven’t had any cancellations,” says Hunter
, CEO of Panda Travel USA. Wang notes that the seven UNESCO World Heritage
in the Chengdu/Sichuan Province area affected by the earthquake remain

This month, Panda Travel USA has tourist groups traveling on
a Mongolia/Beijing tour and a Xian/Beijing/Yangtze River program “They’ve been
undeterred by the earthquake,” says Wang. “The excellent response that the
Chinese government made in the aftermath of the earthquake inspires confidence
in the traveler. Although the earthquake has a psychological ripple effect, I
believe that travel to China will return to normal in the next six months, if not sooner.”

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