Leora Moldofsky from Sydney and Justine Lau from Hong Kong
Lonely Planet guides, companions of English-speaking tourists the world over, are to be translated into Chinese in a sign of the importance of the country's outbound tourism industry.
About 17m Chinese travel abroad each year, a figure expected to soar to 100m by 2020, says the World Tourism Organisation.
Fran Bailey, the Australian tourism minister, whose department is working on a "Chinese action plan", said: "By 2014 Chinese tourists will be spending A$5.9bn (euro 3.65bn) in Australia."
Until recently Australia, New Zealand and the countries of South East Asia were the only destinations Chinese tourists were permitted to visit by Beijing. Butlast year the entire European Union (EU) was granted approved destination status.
While rigidly scheduled bus tours dominate the outward bound Chinese travel market, Lonely Planet, the Australian publisher begun by British backpackers 30 years ago, is banking on the rise of what it terms the "self-challenging traveller".
Anna Bolger, marketing manager for the Melbourne-based company, said: "There's definitely a shift in the type of person travelling from China as its economy booms and people are given permission to travel to more countries." While the publisher's 600 titles cover some remote destinations, its launch titles, scheduled for June 2007, would cover destinations such as Australia and the UK, and feature Chinese writers and "localised" content, Ms Bolger said. "Our authors tend to write in a casual, anecdotal sense but that might not make sense to Chinese readers so local authors will have a hand in the writing."
Ms Bolger said the Chinese-language guides were unlikely to have a different focus from their English-language counterparts, which concentrate on sight-seeing and mid-price hotels and restaurants.
Hu Huaming at DPS Consulting, a Beijing-based travel research group, said that might be a problem for Lonely Planet and SDX, its Beijing partner in the Chinese-language venture.
"Chinese tourists are very different from Europeans or Americans. They like different restaurants, hotels, entertainment and shopping.
"If they [Lonely Planet] just translate their English content, it would not be very useful for the Chinese," said Mr Hu.
As China's brand-conscious tourists tended to enjoy shopping, the guides could also include a list of luxury shops, he said. "When Chinese tourists go to Rome, they want to know where to buy handbags ... they would love a guidebook with that sort of information."