Where for art thou tourists?

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I love this:

Visitor numbers dropped to 130 million in 2008 – down by two million – as a result of the economic crisis, China’s National Tourism Administration said.

Analysts say increased security measures put in place for the Beijing Olympics may also have had an impact.

The number of foreign tourists to Beijing in August fell far short of the government’s estimated 500,000.

Beijing received 389,000 foreign tourists in August, including visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, according to the city’s tourism bureau.

While we were in China, there was buzz and excitement for the Beijing Olympics. Constantly on the news they would talk about how there would be an extreme hotel shortage, and how they were paying families to take on tourists in their homes, creating sort of official mini-hotels – offering authentic experiences. These ‘home hotels’ would need to be run to certain standards, and from memory there was a limit to the number of people able to live in the house at the same time. They basically didn’t want you shelling out for a hotel room, staying with a family and getting too much of an authentic experience – ie 16 family members sleeping in the same room as you.

When the Olympics started, suddenly there was concern that all these hotels(mainly the actual hotels) were nowhere near capacity. Why? Well just prior to the games starting, they introduced extremely tough visa requirements. End result? Barely anyone could get in, and those that did had to do a song and a dance beforehand. Anyone whose had any experience obtaining Chinese visa’s knows just how much fun it is. The Chinese embassy in Melbourne really is like a little slice of China. If you want to experience China on the cheap, go down there and try and get a visa. Make sure you print out the Visa application form on their website first(because of course, it aint the right one!).

It’s funny how much you have to go through to get a visa. Forms for forms as they say. The Chinese excel at stamping forms. When you finally get to China, the level of security is then effectively a joke. When we landed in Shanghai, we basically walked unchecked(including no bag xrays) all the way out. We only had to stop to fill out an immigration form, hand it to the girl, then decide what level of customer service we wanted to rate her – and push the appropriate button.

On the other hand it cracks me up when I watch shows like Australian Border Security. These guys are all over everyone and everything – you could say they’re anal. In China? No problem! A Chinese friend went to Germany on business, then brought me back a whole big bag full of German sour dough bread – fresh! So he’s bought food in Germany, then just walked it through customs to give to me.

China is so inconsistent when it comes to things like this. You can be guaranteed there’ll be a ton of paperwork required before anything remotely official, but almost every time, you’ll submit them then think, was that even worth it? Does someone even look at this stuff? The answer is likely no in every case. Having someone stamps forms provides someone with a job – that is the important thing.

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