The number of travelers visiting China dropped by 2 million to 130 million last year, in what was meant to be a standout year for tourism in China, AP reported, citing data from the National Tourism Administration. The figures marked the first decline in visitors since the 2003 SARS epidemic. The Olympic Games in Beijing were expected to boost travel to China in 2008 and the government spent billions of dollars on infrastructure in preparation for the games. But only 389,000 foreign tourists visited Beijing during August, the month of the games, far lower than the 500,000 guests originally expected. The global economic slowdown was a key cause for the decline, but some within the tourism industry cited the strict visa regulations and the May earthquake as also contributing to the decrease.
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