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Guidelines to secure Chinese tourists abroad

Millions of Chinese tourists will have greater security when they travel abroad after the State drew up guidelines for travel emergency assistance services, with the support of International SOS.

The document, expected to be released by the end of the year, will be especially useful to Chinese tourists who run into difficulties abroad, such as acute medical conditions or accidents.

'It will also help develop China's booming travel industry by setting up and standardizing travel emergency assistance services on the part of stakeholders, including travel agencies and related organizations,' Zhu Shanzhong, deputy director of the China National Tourism Administration, said on Thursday.

According to official statistics, 47.66 million Chinese went abroad in 2009 and this year the number is expected to increase to 54 million.

'As the travel industry rapidly expands, travelers also face an increase in related risks,' said Dr. Pascal Rey-Herme, medical director and co-founder of International SOS, which helps organizations manage the health and security risks their international travelers and expatriates are likely to encounter abroad.

Last January, when a bus carrying Chinese tourists overturned on a highway near the Hoover Dam in the western United States, killing seven and injuring 10 others, the organization worked with the Chinese government to arrange flights for those affected to return to home.

Travel emergency assistance is a service that covers transportation and medical care, as well as linguistic and cultural challenges, according to Rey-Herme.

For Chinese travelers and practitioners in the industry, the guidelines will help to provide peace of mind in knowing that an emergency plan is in place when they book a trip abroad for either leisure or work, he noted.

Once the guidelines are issued, the China National Tourism Administration will promote their use throughout the travel industry and make sure they are followed, Zhu said.

'It sounds good for travelers, but it might increase the cost of travel,' said a division director, surnamed Xu, with the China Youth Travel Service.

Currently, without State guidelines on travel emergency assistance services, most domestic travel agencies can only rely on partner agencies in emergency cases abroad, he said.

'But they can only handle small problems and it's usually hard to land a qualified partner,' he added.

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