Zhengzhou martial arts

The fame of Chinese martial arts has spread far and wide, but Zhengzhou - the birthplace of Shaolin Kung Fu - may have to put in a lot of its own Kung Fu (or 'effort') to lure foreign investment and visitors.

Zhengzhou Tourism Bureau director Chen Yunfeng said the city was planning to build a theme park with half-sized miniatures highlighting the history of the Yellow River and its role as the cradle of Chinese civilisation.

Some Singaporean companies have agreed to take part in the project, which will involve an initial investment of about US$100 million.

Songshan, one of China's five great mountains which housed the original Shaolin Temple, is a major tourist spot in the city. It is part of the Yellow River tourist and holiday zone, which includes Yellow River scenic spots and ruins of the Han and Song dynasties.

With the growing number of visitors, the city will need several four or five-star hotels and 15 three-star hotels over the next five years, according to Mr Chen. It currently has 29 hotels which can host foreigners, of which only seven are three-star grade.

The recently built Holiday Crowne Plaza Zhengzhou has yet to be accredited and French-based hotel firm Accor Group will be involved in a four-star hotel.

Mr Chen believes the number of visitors to Zhengzhou will be boosted by a new air service to the area. Beijing has already approved the route from Singapore to Xian, which is expected to be extended to Zhengzhou.

Mr Chen said: 'We have the potential to develop into a good tourist attraction. We just need better packaging and a higher level of management to bring it out.'