Olympics set to lure Indians to China

By Varada Bhat, IANS

Mumbai : With the 2008 Beijing Olympics set to take place in the neighbourhood, many Indians are readying to make the most of it by visiting China to indulge in its exotic culture, cuisine and shopping possibilities.

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“We are expecting a lot of Indian federations and travellers for the Beijing Summer Olympics next August,” said Preeti Duggal, head of foreign tours, Stic Travel Group.

Duggal said though the Olympics may not be that big an attraction for Indians as India does not figure much among the medals, owing to the geographical closeness with China the number of Indians visiting that country could be a big surprise.

Zhao Quanzhen, country manager for Air China in India, told IANS: “We have booked over 200 Beijing Summer Olympic packages from India. These will include hotel accommodation and free games tickets for business class travellers.”

Industry experts said the Olympics in China would not just be about sports but also offer an opportunity to explore Chinese arts, music and ancient temples. And of course, there will be a lot of shopping thrown in.

Anil Kamath, a vice president with Siemens India Ltd, is one of those taking his family to China for the Olympics.

“I have gone a couple of times to China. It’s a beautiful country but my family has never been there. So this is the right opportunity to take them,” Kamath said.

Chinese diplomats here say the whole of Beijing has been transformed to wear a glitzy, glamorous look to attract international visitors.

“The Beijing experience is going to be a grand one. People can look forward to indulging in shopping for Chinese clothes, gadgets, toys and sculptures, which would be available at affordable rates,” said Zhang Longhai, China’s consul in Mumbai.

“Cafes, bookstores, subways, outdoor sculptures and graffiti splashed on old factory walls, pubs and discotheques will lure visitors,” he said.

Even the Chinese people are undergoing a transformation.

“We are conducting rigorous training programmes to improve our social etiquette, attending English speaking classes to ensure visitors don’t feel left out anywhere,” according to Hong Jing, a senior official of Beijing Hotel – one of the main hotels for the Beijing Summer Olympics 2008 – who was here on a promotional visit.

Zhang said 800 new hotels offering 130,000 rooms would be completed by February. “All hotels will have literature in seven international languages and shall be friendly to physically challenged guests,” he said.

The Chinese embassy in New Delhi is also making efforts to relax baggage rules from 20 kg to 30 kg and make special arrangements to process visas quickly.

Zhang said that a lot of effort has gone into making the event an eco-friendly one, with lots of exploitation of solar energy, greenery etc to live up to the games theme, ‘One World, One Dream.’

Zhang advised early bookings of air tickets and hotel rooms for the mega event “to avoid last-minute disappointments for the event”.

Going by the bookings, some early birds have already decided to follow Zhang’s advice.