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Chinese city Hangzhou to hold 6-month int'l travel expo


Beijing, Aug 30 -- The southern China city of Hangzhou is preparing a lake shore for a six-month international travel exposition designed to stimulate the city's tourism industry and rival the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai in importance, a publicist for the city said Tuesday.

From April 22 through Oct. 22 next year, Hangzhou will hold its first World Leisure Expo 2006 along Xiang Lake. Officials with the city, the China National Tourism Administration and the World Leisure Organization have assigned pavilions to 100 tourism-conscious cities, such as Beijing and Sydney, from 50 countries.

They expect 15 million Chinese visitors and 1 million foreign visitors.

Tea art lessons, dragon boats and a golf tournament are among the 100 or so activities planned for the expo season. Visitors will also see firework displays and automotive and real estate exhibits on the 10 square kilometers of exposition space.

Organizers are spending more than 10 billion yuan (about $1.23 billion) to put on the event.

Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai, wants the expo to get as much attention as the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the 2010 World Expo, said Hao Weidong, chief creative officer with the city's publicist, the Denghuo Culture Advertisement firm in Beijing.

'They want people who love leisure all to go to Hangzhou,' Hao said. 'That's the major goal.'

More than 10 percent of Hangzhou's collective income comes from tourism, Hao said. The United Nations and Forbes magazine have commended Hangzhou for its livability and investment climate.

Hangzhou Communist Party Secretary Wang Guoping said in early August he hoped the World Leisure Expo would develop alongside the Olympics.

'We are ready to serve this great event, taking the initiative to bring the expo in line with Beijing so as to seek common development while serving the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the capital,' Wang said.

Another expo goal is to promote tourism specifically at Xiang Lake, which is relatively unknown to outside tourists compared with West Lake, a downtown Hangzhou landmark known nationwide for its gardens, temples and teahouses.

To prepare for the expo, the city is building housing, pavilion space and a castle-like hotel along the now undeveloped lake shore, which is a 20-minute drive from central Hangzhou, Hao said.

He said roads between the city and the lake are also being rebuilt to handle expo traffic.

Hangzhou is also preparing a media campaign that will begin as early as October and last through the opening ceremony in April, Hao said.

Expo organizers have not set ticket prices, he said. Some activities will likely be free of charge.




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