Red chip China Travel International Investment (CTII) confirmed that it had applied to Beijing for a wholly-owned travel agency licence in the mainland. The move aims to capture the opportunities offered by China's successful bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games and its impending accession to the World Trade Organisation. The red chip said it wanted to be one of the earliest foreign-invested firms to gain the licence. Some foreign travel agencies had entered the country's market, but were only allowed to do so through joint ventures. Managing director Shen Zhuying said the licence would make it convenient for his firm to develop new tourist destinations. 'We have a keen interest in developing new scenic spots in Beijing's suburbs and in China's western regions, including the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan,' Mr Shen said. CTII had applied for the licence a while ago and was waiting for the relevant authorities' decision. Mr Shen said these areas had plenty of scenic landscapes but had yet to improve transportation, accommodation and marketing to fully tap the potential. Beijing's success as host of the 2008 Olympic Games is also expected to boost inbound tourism. Mr Shen said it would help arouse foreign tourists' interest in the country. About 50,000 overseas tourists visited Beijing through CTII's organised tours last year, he said. 'We will seize the new business opportunities by strengthening the work to pool together the customer bases among the China Travel Services agencies in the mainland, Hong Kong and overseas countries . . . and trying harder to promote Beijing and CTII's theme parks in Shenzhen,' Mr Shen said. The company will apply the same business concept to its domestic acquisition plan by having the acquired regional travel agencies share the customer base nationwide. CTII expected to take two years to complete the acquisition plan, targeting quality travel agencies in coastal regions and the yet-to-be developed west. Acquisition targets will be chosen from a pool of China's 200 best travel agencies.