China will lower the registered capital requirements for foreign travel agencies and scrap restrictions on their setting up branches in the country as of July 1, the official Xinhua news agency said last week.

Xinhua cited Shao Qiwei, head of the National Tourism Administration, as saying that foreign travel agencies would be subject to the same capital requirements as domestic ones.

Xinhua cited Shao as saying the move was meant to attract foreign brand-name travel agencies to set up shop in China. The government would also encourage domestic travel agencies to expand overseas, he said.

Shao added that China had honoured the commitments it made on the tourism sector when it joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, implementing some of them ahead of schedule.

Chinese citizens made 34 million trips abroad in 2006, more than any other country in Asia, Xinhua said.

China received 124 million visitors and earned $33.5 billion from tourism last year, making the country the sixth highest tourism revenue earner globally, it said.

China's tourism industry is expected to grow rapidly in coming years, boosted in part by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Source: Reuters