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China turns to tourism to boost sagging economy

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China is ramping up support for tourism, creating investment funds and building tourist attractions from camp grounds to theme parks in a bid to lift spending in its softening economy.

[BEIJING] China is ramping up support for tourism, creating investment funds and building tourist attractions from camp grounds to theme parks in a bid to lift spending in its softening economy.

Helped by a fast-expanding middle class, tourism has emerged as a prospective new driver in China's economy, with the government aiming to double leisure spending to 5.5 trillion yuan (US$886 billion) by 2020 from 2013.

Ten new ports for cruise ships will be constructed by 2020 and state companies will be encouraged to build vacation boats to spur growth, the State Council, China's cabinet, said in an online statement on Tuesday.

In addition, around 1,000 camp grounds for recreational vehicles will be developed by 2020 and 57,000 toilet facilities for tourists will be built or renovated in the next three years, it said.

Wireless networks will be installed at top tourist spots to give visitors free Internet access at some 10,000 destinations.

To pay for the new construction, funds will be created and private investors will be encouraged to become partners in projects, the cabinet said, without giving further details.

More funding will be made available for the construction of roads and parking lots at holiday spots, as well as for new airports in northwest China.

Credit support for tourism firms and outdoor sports equipment makers will be increased, and more holiday destinations will offer tax breaks to lift spending.

Tourist spots will target elderly Chinese, a well-heeled group whose spending lags that of the wider population, the cabinet said.

Held down by a cooling property market, sluggish investment, faltering global demand and a stock market slide, the world's second-largest economy is forecast to grow 7 per cent this year, its worst showing in 25 years.

In another move seen by analysts as a way to shore up the economy, China devalued its currency on Tuesday by nearly 2 per cent.

REUTERS