|China allows group tours to Jordan, eight African countries|
Starting December, China will allow travel agencies to sell vacation tours to the Kingdom and eight African countries, the state Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
The announcement was welcomed by Jordan's Ambassador to China Anmar Al Hmoud who said, "this step comes as a result of His Majesty King Abdullah's successful recent visit to China, which has strengthened ties between the two countries."
Hmoud stressed the need for the Kingdom to prepare for this step and highlighted the importance of opening a direct flight route to the Chinese capital, Beijing.
"Royal Jordanian has to seriously consider introducing direct flights to and from Beijing in light of this news and also given the fact that China is due to hold the 2008 Olympics," said Hmoud.
In order to promote the Kingdom as a tourist destination, a delegation headed by Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities Secretary General Sultan Abu Jaber will visit China on Oct. 26 along with representatives from some local tourist agencies.
According to Hmoud, not only would Chinese tourists be interested in visiting the country's numerous historic sites, but the announcement also paves the way for Chinese businessmen looking to invest in the country.
The announcement comes just three months after the China National Tourism Administration decided to allow travel agencies to sell holiday packages to 27 European nations, which at the time more than doubled the number of countries the Chinese could visit for leisure.
China is among the top 10 nations for outbound tourism. Last year, the number of Chinese travelling abroad surpassed Japan for the first time at 20.22 million, according to World Tourism Organisation (WTO) figures cited by Xinhua.
However, the WTO notes that the majority of these travellers still visit countries adjacent to China.
In addition to Jordan, the agreement allows tour groups to visit Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tunsia, and comes into effect from Dec. 15.
The new destinations bring to 61 the number of countries that the Chinese can now visit as part of group tours.