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BEIJING-From 1996 to 2002, international arrivals to China increased by 12% per annum, from approximately 6.7 million in 1996 to 13.4 million in 2002, the highest number ever recorded. During the first two months of 2003, international arrivals were up 25%.

Then came the March outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. By July, year-to-date international arrivals already were off nearly 25% compared to 2002. In August and September, however, arrivals were starting to recover more rapidly than anticipated.

As a result, the Singapore office of HVS International is estimating that arrivals for the full year 2003 are likely to be less than 10% below 2002. “Moreover, we anticipate a full recovery in 2004 with double-figure growth rates in line with historical trends,” states the report.

As a result, the report suggests that corporate for hotel accommodation is likely to increase nationwide, while MICE (Corporate and Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Exhibition) demand is likely to increase at major cities offering world-class facilities. Assisted by international events such as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing or the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, leisure demand also is expected to improve throughout the country, according to the report.

Looking way out, HVS predicts that China will receive more than 180 million tourists in 2020, ranking it top among countries in international tourist arrivals ahead of France and the United US.

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