After last year's boom in tourism, Guangdong is planning to become one of the nation's premier tourist destinations.
China was designated one of the world's best travel destinations in 2004. The most recent China National Tourism Administration statistics indicated the Chinese mainland attracted 105 million tourists in the first 10 months of last year, and the national tourism industry was worth US$22.5 billion during that period. Both figures set new records.
Chen Ruidong, vice-director of the marketing and product development department of the Guangdong Provincial Tourism Administration (GPTA), said 84 million visited Guangdong, most of them from Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan.
GPTA's Chairman Zheng Tongyang predicts Guangdong will increase this figure to about 90 million this year, and that the provincial tourism industry will be worth US$5.7 billion.
Guangdong's tourism industry suffered a major setback in 2003 when the deadly SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus originated in the province.
Guangzhou has only five five-star hotels while Beijing has 18 and Shanghai 17.
"As the province with the largest tourism industry, Guangdong needs more high-quality hotels," Zheng said.
Last February, Asia's largest hotel group, the Shangri-La, began building its first Shangri-La hotel in Guangzhou.
Other premier hoteliers, including Marriott and the Grand Hyatt, have expressed interest in opening hotels in Guangdong.
Liang Jie, public relations manager of the Guangzhou-based China Hotel, said the hotel was confident it could survive fierce competition.
"More high-class hotels could help the market mature and attract more guests to Guangdong or Guangzhou," Liang said.
With improved services in Guangdong, and a much improved environment for tourists, the local government must do more to attract tourists from overseas.
"The key point is finding a way to transform Guangdong into a travel destination," Chen said.