Beijing Strikes Tourism Gold

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BEIJING, China - Beijing has invested billions in improving its image for the Olympics.

They should see a solid return on that investment as millions of tourists spend money in the city.

Sandy's Pearls

Eleven years ago, Sandy Wang started selling pearls in Beijing's Hongqiao Market.

Today, Sandy has her own store, Sandy's Pearls, and a staff of twelve. She says she needs to hire even more people to keep up with her growing business.

"People trust us and they always come back and bring friends to us. Now business is getting better," Wang said.

Since 1990, the number of visitors to Hongqiao Market has increased from ten thousand to over one million each year.

"We have a reasonable price with good quality. That's what attracts tourists and presidents from all over the world," said Zong Yongxia, Deputy General Manager Hongqiao Market

Just an escalator ride down from places like sandy's, shopping becomes less about relationships, and more about the sport. With no price-tags, getting the best deals can be intense.

"You're bargaining with them, and trying to get a good price. They're all yelling at you and trying how to get you to go to their stand," said one young American shopper.

Hongqiao's not the only place where visitors have been spending money.

In 2006, overseas tourists spent nearly $34 billion in China, versus the only $2 billion they spent in 1990.

Cultural and Historical Attractions

Beijing's culture and history have made it one of the country's most popular destinations.

One grandmother from Ohio was visiting with her granddaughter.

"We've seen the Great Wall, Temple Of Heaven, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square. We went to the zoo to see the pandas. We've done a lot," she said.

Xiong Yumei, deputy director of the Beijing Tourism Administration says some of the new Olympic improvements will attract even more visitors.

"Hosting the Olympics is only a starting point. Both the tourism infrastructure and the city will continue to improve," Yumei said.

But Beijing hasn't had as many tourists as expected during the Games.

"I've been here for two weeks, and sometimes the hotel is really crowded, but other times it's not. It's really strange," said one Brazilian tourist.

Despite the empty rooms, tourism here won't be slowing down any time soon.

The United Nations estimates that China will be the most popular tourist destination in the world by 2020.

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