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ON A BUDGET

In search of tourists, China is launching remarkable deals

August 17, 2003|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

On June 24, Beijing was removed from the SARS warning list of the World Health Organization. With that announcement, China tourism authorities launched a long-planned effort to revive the industry.

The result is an extraordinary travel opportunity, with some of the lowest prices ever offered. Among the specials:

Champion Tours, (800) 868-7658, www.china-discover.com, will offer China Discovery beginning Sept. 12. The six-night package, $799 per adult ($639 for kids younger than 12, if staying in parents' room), includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The all-inclusive trip will visit three Chinese cities: Beijing (three nights, with tours of the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs), Wuxi (one night) and Shanghai (two nights, with sightseeing tours), including a deluxe hotel in each city and three meals a day.

Departures are on most Fridays from September through November and are also offered, for $100 more, on Dec. 19 and 26. The single-room supplement is $200.

For a slightly longer tour, you might want to try China Focus, (800) 868-7244, www.chinafocustravel.com. The company has reduced the price of its 10-night tour of six Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Wuxi, Ji'nan, Qufu and Tai'an) to $999 in November and the first half of December ($1,199 in October), including all meals and round-trip airfare from San Francisco; add $80 from Los Angeles. Single supplement is $220 to $320. Many column readers have commented favorably about the company's six-city program.

For a trip to Beijing, the top new value is an air-and-land package priced at $529 per person, based on two people traveling together. This one is from Go-Today.com, which flies you to the Chinese capital and puts you up at a Best Western hotel for five nights. The $529 price, good from November until March, includes Tuesday departures from LAX (people leaving from dozens of other gateways pay a surcharge from $125 to $250). Also continuing until March is a Go-Today.com trip to Beijing and Xian (to view the terra-cotta warriors) for $949. See details at the Go-Today.com Web site.

And finally, there's a $1,299 tour that goes to Beijing and Shanghai and sandwiches in a four-night cruise of the Yangtze River aboard a deluxe Victoria Cruises vessel, with all meals aboard included.

The program, operated by Ritz Tours, www.ritztours.com, includes airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco and is available through October. Contrary to a popular misconception, cruises of the Yangtze are still operating. Call (626) 289-7777.

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