Final words -- for now! -- on Olympic tourism in China

This is an encore-finale to previous reports about the people who are traveling in China this summer, namely ordinary Chinese tourists, and those who aren't -- namely, visitors from overseas who are being deterred by visa rules, high prices, or other discouragements.

1) From a friend with close connections at BOCOG, the Olympic organizing committee: Initial estimates for total foreign visitors at the Olympics were roughly 500,000.  Now the working plans estimate 140,000. My friend comments: "Has any economist run the numbers on what this is costing the government? Frankly I doubt if the government even cares as long as they can hold control of what happens and what is seen."

2) On a brighter note, from Jonathan Tang, an American living in Beijing, about his latest trip through the new Beijing airport (in contrast to my report two weeks ago).

When I got in from HK last week at just past midnight, after a delay of three hours, I was dismayed to find all of two officers at border control, ready to examine the passports of a 767 full of cranky passengers. However, not two seconds after I got in line, the floodgates opened and all the counters were manned - I got through in less than a minute.
Who knows - maybe 'we' *are* ready?

3) From Edward Russell of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, a report on the Olympic travel business (not available on the web) emphasizing the importance of the domestic-tourist market:

Domestic support for the Games is overwhelmingly strong and is expected to be an essential element in the overall success of the Olympics. Predicted to be more than double the number of international visitors to the Games, Chinese spectators will reserve the majority of hotel rooms and provide the biggest boost for new retail and commercial providers in Beijing.
"The Olympics in the capital are a once in a lifetime extravaganza and people who are fortunate to present themselves there will not wish to miss it," says Timothy Fok, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) 2008 Olympics Coordination Commission. "The visitors will flock to Beijing for the Games, this much is certain, for the packages with tickets and lodging were sold way in advance."

4) From Paul French in Shanghai, author of the entertaining recent biography of the old China hand Carl Crow, speculations on reasons for the drop in travel from the UK in particular.

One, the price of packages including airfare, hotel and events tickets offered by UK travel agents was astronomical and often way beyond what people would have had to spend to go to the recent European football championships in Austria or the last World Cup in Germany. This deterred many people

Two, (And this might be a peculiarly Brit thing and for those people who like the idea of the Olympics as a big party and are not that bothered about sport) - a lot of people and companies who were thinking of doing corporate trips decided Beijing didn't look much fun and that in four years we'll all be in London where lots will go wrong but it will probably be quite a fun party with few restrictions and the police won't care that much if people unfurl banners in Trafalgar Square.

I declare this issue settled.