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Dispute over Diaoyutais set to benefit other tour destinations in Asia

BEIJING -- The tourism industries of other countries in the region are set to benefit from the arrival of more Chinese mainland travelers during the coming Golden Week holiday, after scores of agents cancelled planned travel groups to Japan.

Japan's move to “nationalize” the Diaoyutai Islands (known in Japan as Senkaku Islands) has sparked protests and a consumer boycott of Japanese goods and tourism all over mainland China during the past two weeks, and according to travel agents, tens of thousands of Chinese have cancelled travel plans to Japan.

Vacationers have been choosing South Korea and Southeast Asia as well as Taiwan as alternative, similarly priced destinations.

“We forecast that about 80,000 mainland travelers will visit Taiwan during the eight-day holiday, which is four times as many as last year's four-day Golden Week,” said Wu Chin-feng, deputy director of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association's Beijing office.

South Korea expects a record 100,000 Chinese travelers during the holiday as they switch plans, Bloomberg reported on Monday, up from 70,000 during last year's Golden Week, according to figures provided by the Korea Tourism Organization.

“Chinese mainland residents, who have been withdrawing from tourism groups to Japan since last week, might not have enough time to apply for a visa to other countries and regions,” said a manager from China International Travel Service Ltd., who refused to be identified.

But if relations between China and Japan don't improve any time soon, she added that other regional tourist sites will certainly benefit.

The service, China's largest travel agency by market value, withdrew all group offers to Japan during the holiday, and more than 600 people in Beijing withdrew from the groups, the company said.

UTour International Travel Service Co. Ltd., also one of the country's main agencies working on outbound travel, said it had planned to send 10,000 Chinese visitors on trips to Japan during the period, but those have also been cancelled.

China Comfort Travel Group Co. Ltd. started to cancel booked tour groups to Japan on Sept. 11, and then stopped selling packages to there from all of its 5,500 stores across the country

The agency said it had cancelled the travel plans of some 50,000 Chinese who had intended to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations in Japan.

Yao Yao, head of the agency's marketing department, said that all tour groups planning to travel before Oct. 8, the last day of the Golden Week holiday, had been cancelled.

“Almost 400 residents in Beijing were involved,” Yao said.

It is still uncertain when the tour groups could be organized again, and the effect on the agency's business may last to the end of this year, he added.

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