Destinations Asia

Chinese tour operators negotiate visits to Obama-Xi meeting grounds

Jun 13, 2013 6:07 am

Skift Take

Nothing like hosting the leaders of two global superpowers to boost visitor numbers: Tour operators recognize the meeting will fuel demand from Chinese tourists looking to visit a location that physically symbolizes U.S.-China relations.

— Samantha Shankman

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Kevin Lamarque  / Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) walk the grounds at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 8, 2013. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters


The Annenberg Retreat on the Sunnylands estate, the venue for last week’s summit in the United States between President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Barack Obama, could soon see more Chinese visitors.

Beijing student Ji Peiwen, for one, is planning to visit the residence in Rancho Mirage, southern California, after watching the two-day summit.

The 24-year-old’s dream may come true, because some Chinese travel agencies are negotiating with the retreat, in an attempt to develop tour projects.

To visit Sunnylands, which was built in the mid-1960s and has been open to the public since March last year, an online appointment is required for a 90-minute tour, which costs US$35, according to the retreat’s website.

Facilities at Sunnylands include meeting rooms, guest suites, a golf course, lakes and walking trails.

Gao Zhiquan, vice-president of China Youth Travel Service, said on Wednesday that since the summit some Chinese customers have consulted the company about visiting the retreat.

“We’re doing research and are in discussion with the retreat’s officers, hoping to design some interesting and meaningful travel projects,” Gao said, adding that the company hopes to build long-term cooperation with the retreat on travel development.

The agency said visits to the retreat, if realized, will not be too superficial or developed in a popular way, as large crowds would ruin the venue’s environment and its international image.

“The summit between the two countries’ heads is an attraction, but one which cannot last long if we want to develop travel projects in depth. So we’re planning to provide customers with the chance to have meals and hold conferences there,” Gao said, adding that costs will rise if these ideas come to fruition.

Travel projects featuring the estate would be launched in August at the earliest, he added.

China International Travel Service is also considering contacting tourism authorities in California to develop travel projects in the US.

“We’d like to enrich our travel lines or projects in foreign countries to satisfy customers, although we haven’t been in any consultations about the retreat,” said Li Meng, the company’s vice-president of overseas travel.

Ji, the Beijing travel enthusiast, said she is looking forward to seeing the retreat. “I’m curious about it, but the beautiful scenery and interesting history are the main attractions for me,” she added.

However, Cui Shaoyu, a 25-year-old Beijing resident who works for a media company and will go to the US to study in August, said she prefers cultural or historical sites instead of places that become famous due to celebrities or for hosting meetings between heads of state.

Song Qian, 27, a Beijing resident working for an environmental company who has visited California, said: “Short visits to this retreat will be kind of a waste. I hope to go there for several days with my family.”

Zhang Guangrui, director of the Tourism Research Center with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a retreat like Sunnylands is more suitable for conferences or forums, suggesting that travel agencies consider business trips.

“Some castles and private estates in Western countries are good places for banquets, but are often restricted for visitors,” he said.

(c)2013 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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