Beijing Layover Tour
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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way!

After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

Westborough, Massachusetts
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Slam dunk for tourism
Beijing tourism chiefs are appealing to US basketball fans to visit China, as experts say sporting events may be a drawcard for international visitors. May Zhou in Houston and Xu Lin in Beijing report.

Beijing tourism chiefs recently attended a basketball game in the United States as part of a bid to lure more tourists to the Chinese capital.

Fans attending the NBA San Antonio Spurs versus Utah Jazz game in San Antonio, Texas, on March 16 received a small gift package, containing a towel, party favors and a tour map of Beijing. A short film showcasing Beijing's tourist attractions and sports events was broadcast on the big screen in the arena during breaks.

At half time, one fan, Andrew Gomez, was the winner of a lucky dip offering a free trip to Beijing. He received the big prize - a six-day trip from Houston to Beijing for two - from Wang Yue, vice-chairwoman of Beijing Municipal Commission of Tourism Development, and Yang Song, cultural consul from the Consulate General of China in Houston.

"I can finally visit Beijing. It's like a dream come true!" Gomez said when he accepted the prize.

The small Beijing tourism delegation, led by Wang Yue, consisted of deputy director of BMCTD Liu Jing'an, vice-president of China CYTS Tours Holding Co Ltd Guo Xiaodong and secretary general of the World Tourism Cities Federation Ding Peng. They joined thousands of fans at the arena to promote Beijing.

BMCTD regularly advertises its tourism attractions with the NBA games and has its ads constantly displayed on the most prominent hometown score boards.

Wang says BMCTD has been working with the NBA games to promote Beijing tourism in the US since 2009 and held similar promotional events during games in New York and Los Angeles in the past. "Our primary goal is to utilize the NBA's platform to promote Beijing as a travel destination," Wang says.

"It's more like a tour invitation from Beijing than a promotion. Sports fans get to know more about the ancient city. Another goal of our promotional trip is to learn something about the NBA's promotional model. They are very successful and very good at marketing and we would like to learn from them."

A large number of international tourists are serviced by China CYTS Tours. This is why its vice-president, Guo Xiaodong, was part of the delegation. "We hope to spotlight Beijing's unique culture to the US and to help us to better provide inbound tourism services," Guo says.

Yang Song says that showcasing Chinese elements during a popular NBA game is an effective strategy for BMCTD to promote Beijing.

"I believe this kind of promotional activity will also help the American people to better understand China and Chinese culture, and we also welcome US cities to promote themselves as travel destinations for the people of China," Yang says.

According to Wang, Beijing has two advantages - many scenic and cultural heritage spots and a booming economy - both key factors in the development of a tourism industry.

After the success of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Beijing and Zhangjiakou have been in the process of applying to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

"If the application is approved, it will surely boost the tourism of Beijing and its surrounding cities such as Zhangjiakou and Tianjin," Wang says.

Besides its six world cultural heritage sites, Beijing also boasts world-class stadiums, golf courses and ski fields. The capital hosts some of the world's top sports events every year, such as the Beijing International Marathon and the China Open tennis tournament.

"I believe the combination of tourism and sports is a future trend. I hope some tourists will visit Beijing especially for these sporting events," Wang says.

Wang says he thinks more tourism and sporting itineraries should be promoted. For example, most trips to the Great Wall are done in one day. In the future, tourists may have the opportunity to climb the Great Wall in different areas.

The US contributes the biggest percentage - more than 15 percent of Beijing's inbound tourism market with an annual visitation of more than 700,000.

"Cultural differences among foreign guests differ. For example, some US tourists come to Beijing for business trips and international academic conferences," Wang says.

She says the second biggest market is Russia. Russians like to visit places different from their country, so their favorite destinations are southern China, such as Sanya, Hainan province.

For those who only stay in Beijing for three days, top destinations are places of historical significance, such as the Forbidden City. If it's not the first time for the visitor, they tend to go to modern places such as Sanlitun and the 798 art zone.

Most visitors choose to fly between China and the US, but Wang says flights are not suitable for elderly people and people in poor health. She says cruise trips to the US are very promising, as long as the price is reasonable and the service is good.

According to Wang, to better serve overseas visitors, the commission plans to open direct buses from Beijing Capital International Airport to hotels and scenic spots and improve the service of foreign cuisines.

Wang says the commission is researching the possibility of a tax refund program that allows foreign visitors to claim tax refunds while shopping to encourage them to buy more Chinese products.

On Jan 1, 2013, Beijing approved a 72-hour visa waiver for tourists from 45 countries to attract more international visitors. This January, Beijing Capital International Airport received 1,746 transit passengers who benefited from the policy, with an increase of 184.8 percent compared with last January. "We have to learn from other cities such as Seoul, to offer various tourism products and services at the airport for transit passengers," Wang says.

2014-3-19 ( China Daily )

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