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Xinjiang works to assure trapped tourists

Updated: Aug 16, 2022 By CHENG SI in Beijing and MAO WEIHUA in Urumqi CHINA DAILY Print
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Photo taken on July 31, 2022 shows that Hatma Enedu (L) is performing embroidery under the guidance of Lu Fuying (R) at an intangible cultural heritage exhibition in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has suspended group tours to areas of medium or high risk, and is working to secure accommodation for travelers stranded due to the recent resurgence of COVID-19 infections in the region.

According to the Xinjiang's regional culture and tourism bureau, 2,003 travelers were stranded in the region as of 8 pm on Aug 13, mainly in the Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture, Turpan, Kashgar and Urumqi-all popular summer tourism destinations.

The bureau said that since Aug 2,15 five-star attractions-the highest ranking for domestic scenic spots-have evacuated 92,000 travelers and that a 24-hour service hotline is available to help travelers solve their problems.

Yan Naimin, deputy director of the bureau, told a news conference on Aug 13 that hotels, homestays and travel agencies in the region are required to return down payments to travelers wishing to cancel due to the epidemic, without imposing any conditions.

He said that travelers stranded in areas suffering from outbreaks, such as Turpan and Kashgar, can stay for half price. Officials and volunteers in the areas will visit travelers with gifts of fruit and souvenirs to relieve any anxieties, he added.

Xinjiang adjusted its travel policy on Aug 2 in accordance with a policy released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which suspended group tours to 20 counties and districts in the eight cities currently at medium or high risk-among them, Nilka county in Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture.

Under the latest adjustment, travel agencies and online travel service platforms are required to suspend the booking of flights and hotels for group tours to the affected areas until they have been cleared of risk.

Projected to experience a summer travel boom by industry insiders, Xinjiang has instead experienced a decline following the outbreaks on July 30.

Figures from Tuniu, an online travel agency, show that flight reservations to the region during the week of Aug 8 until Aug 14, fell by 26 percent from the previous week.

The agency said that trips to Xinjiang, as well as to other long-distance destinations like Hainan province and the Tibet autonomous region which have also experienced outbreaks, have decreased on average by 20 percent in the 10 days from Aug 1 to Aug 10.

As of midnight on Aug 13, Xinjiang had reported five confirmed cases and 2,034 asymptomatic cases, and now has 150 areas classified as high risk and 106 areas as medium risk, according to the region's health commission.

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