BEIJING: The beer flowed, acrobats flipped and traditional Chinese instruments sang out as Beijing tried to boost its SARS-battered tourism industry with a bash for foreign visitors at the Great Hall of the People.
More than 500 tourists from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea were treated to a banquet and show on Friday a week after the World Health Organisation lifted a travel advisory on Beijing that had devastated the Chinese capital's economy.
Beijing tourism officials said they hoped publicity from the banquets would spread the word that the city is a safe place to visit.
They said they planned to offer banquets to a total of 1,500 tourists.
Beijing can guarantee you a wonderful, safe visit, and unforgettable memories,'' Tourism Bureau Director Yu Changjiang said in a speech to diners.
Waiters in black tie served course after course of Chinese delicacies in an enormous third-floor hall in building where China's legislature meets beside Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.
Camera crews and photographers milled among diners at red-draped tables, while musicians performed folk songs.
Beijing offered the banquets to the first tour groups to arrive on Friday.
I was gobsmacked when they told us about it,'' said Jan Lokan, from Australia, part of a 30-member tour group who arrived on Friday.
The group received a police escort from the airport and were greeted with musicians and dancers at their hotel, she said. AP
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