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China travel bargains may disappear

  • Published Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, at 12:05 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Nov. 30, 2009, at 7:53 a.m.

For the past several years, White House officials of both parties and U.S. Secretaries of the Treasury have sought to pressure China into raising the value of its currency. Although they have succeeded in part — the Chinese yuan, once exchanged at a rate of nearly 8 to the U.S. dollar, is now selling for 6.82 — they have never achieved the realistic exchange value that a unit of Chinese currency should have: around 5 to the dollar.

Anxious to protect its export industries, determined not to give in to external pressures, China has rigidly maintained the value of the yuan throughout all the recent months of economic crisis and slowdown. While the dollar drops, the yuan stays at 6.82 day after day after day.

But something new has happened. We suddenly are told that prominent Chinese economists have at last joined the fight to increase the value of the yuan. In their opinion, the Chinese national interest requires such a move. The yuan, as they see it, should be far more expensive; the long-term viability of China requires that it rely more on domestic consumption than on exports. And it appears that such viewpoints are at last prevailing in the Chinese government, causing it — slowly but eventually — to take action.

Numerous prominent U.S. commentators are now saying that beginning as early as a year from now, the Chinese currency will be re-valued, and everything in China — including tourist purchases — will become far more expensive.

And so, those amazing air-and-land packages to China (currently selling in the winter months at $888 for a week of air transportation, hotel accommodations, meals and sightseeing) will become a thing of the past. China for $888 will never again be offered. A Chinese vacation will cost more like a European vacation, like a vacation in the United States. And you will want to kick yourself for failing to take advantage of the rock-bottom Chinese bargains made possible by an unrealistic exchange rate.

At this time, both China Focus (www.chinafocustravel.com) and China Spree (www.chinaspree.com) are selling a virtually all-inclusive seven-night stay in three Chinese cities — Beijing, Xian and Shanghai — for $888 per person, including round-trip airfare to China from San Francisco, in January (China Focus) and January/February (China Spree) of 2010. China Focus is also offering a nine-night stay in five Chinese cities, again including air from San Francisco, for $888 in January, $1,088 in February, and $1,199 in March. Both companies charge only $200 and $210 more from New York City.

Values like those will not be offered in the winter of 2011. They are available, for the last time, now.

You really should examine and consider the possibilities. In the case of China Focus, click on "2010 Promotions" at the upper left-hand corner of its main menu page, and move on from there. In the case of China Spree, look for the "10 Day China's Golden Triangle" package.

Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer's Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program, "The Travel Show," with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer's blog at frommers.com.

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