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G20 tourist boost for Chinese city

AAP logoAAP 13/10/2016 Lisa Martin

It says a lot about China's growing dominance on the world stage that a conference centre which hosted global leaders is now one of the hottest domestic tourist attractions.

Hangzhou, 200 kilometres from Shanghai, hosted the G20 summit in September.

Chinese tourists are now flocking in droves to the picturesque leafy lakeside city, one of China's Silicon Valley equivalents.

The city's tourism bureau insists during the recent "Golden Week" - Chinese public holidays to commemorate the founding of the People's Republic - that the population of 10 million swelled by an additional 15 million visitors.

The city claims - because in China there can be question marks over the accuracy of official figures - in the past year Hangzhou has welcomed 500 million Chinese visitors and 10 million foreigners.

It's hard to imagine Australian cities coping under the strain of a sudden influx of multiple millions of travellers.

Although the scenario does bring to mind Birdsville during the "Melbourne Cup of the Outback" when the township's ranks swell from 100 people to 6000.

For Chinese domestic visitors to Hangzhou "summit tourism" is fuelled by a sense of national pride.

And it's the cashed-up retirees getting out and about.

In China people retire relatively early at 55 for women and 60 for men, although the government is bringing in reforms to make people work for longer as it grapples with an ageing population.

The grey-haired brigade grew up in an era of China's isolation and are now avidly watching the continued rise of their proud "civilisation".

And who could blame them for coming to Hangzhou? It's an architecture buff's dream.

Australia hosted the G20 summit in 2014, but the Brisbane Convention Centre pales in comparison to the grandeur of Hangzhou's venue.

From a distance it resembles a giant skate park.

Inside, tour groups wearing matching hats and armed with selfie sticks are jostling for photos in front of flags where the world's leaders stood, ate lunch or discussed matters of global importance.

On the roof top, crowds admire a stunning Chinese garden and fish pond, with city scape views including a stadium shaped like a lotus.

Nearby a giant golden ball, representing the sun and housing the Intercontinental Hotel, hosted business leaders for the B20.

It's next door to another building which represents the moon.

No doubt tourism will revolve around Chinese demand for a long time to come.

* The reporter travelled to China on a delegation hosted by the Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs.

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