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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Taps Action Movie Star to Reignite Tourism

"We have such a plan and it is going to be announced soon," said an official at the foreign affairs department of the China National Tourism Administration.

Another administration official said the decision would be formally announced during a visit to Tokyo by Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing next week.

The move was part of government efforts to revive the tourism industry, which was badly hit by SARS, the virus that emerged late last year in China and spread around the world, killing more than 800 and infecting thousands, the official said.

"SARS hit our tourism a lot," he said. "We have started with Singapore and Japan, as Asian countries accounted for a big proportion of our tourist arrivals."

Last month, China issued visa exemptions for tourists from Singapore and Brunei, allowing them to stay for up to 15 days.

In 2002, 2.9 million Japanese tourists visited China, up 23 percent from 2001, while half a million Singaporeans visited, up 20 percent, official figures show.

Tourists from Asian countries accounted for 64 percent of the total 13.4 million foreign arrivals to China last year.

But largely due to SARS, foreign tourist arrivals plunged 51 percent in the first half of this year, compared to the first half of 2002.

In Hong Kong, Chinese authorities are taking a different approach to luring tourists in the wake of SARS.

Action film hero Jackie Chan is starring in a television advertisement for tourism that will be broadcast in 30 cities around the world, officials said Saturday.

But the Hong Kong-born star will not perform any of his trademark daredevil stunts in the commercial that began filming here on Friday, said Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesman Simon Clennell.

In the ad, Chan will greet potential overseas visitors in several foreign languages including English and French, Clennell said.

Tourists stayed away from Hong Kong -- the area hardest-hit by SARS outside of mainland China -- during the outbreak, which cost the territory an estimated 33 billion Hong Kong dollars ($4.23 billion) to 46 billion Hong Kong dollars in lost retail, airline and hotel revenue.

The figure was given in a report commissioned by the Better Hong Kong Foundation, a group of business leaders, that was submitted to the government on Friday, the South China Morning Post newspaper reported. The group could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome sickened 1,755 people here and killed 299.

The tourism board hopes to re-establish Hong Kong's popularity as a tourist destination, and the commercial is part of a 400 million Hong Kong dollar package to restore glitz to the territory's image.

Television viewers in the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada will be able to watch the ad in the coming weeks, Clennell said. It will also be aired in mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

(Reuters, AP)