Asian tourism officials gathered in Beijing yesterday to hammer out a strategy to lure tourists back to the region after the Sars crisis. Officials said work had already started on a 'Beijing consensus' - a detailed approach to maintaining a high standard of hygiene throughout the region to reassure jittery visitors. 'It is an urgent task for us to revitalise the tourism industry in Asia, especially through strengthening regional co-operation,' said Chong Yoke Har, a regional director with the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. 'We fully support the idea that tourism boards throughout the region should work hand in hand.' Liu Kezhi, of the China National Tourism Administration, sponsor of the regional symposium, said the government was returning 60 per cent of 2.3 billion yuan (HK$2.1 billion) in required 'guarantee deposits' to travel agencies to help battered companies survive. The deposits are part of the requirements for tour operating licences. More than 12 million mainland tourists travel worldwide every year, mostly heading to Southeast Asia. Regional tourism officials have been concerned with getting tour groups from the mainland to visit their countries again after Sars. 'We hope tourists will come back to Singapore,' said Edmund Chua, a regional director with the Singapore Tourism Board. 'We are rebuilding confidence, promoting Singapore regionally, and working with various airlines and tourism companies to bring them back,' he said. Last year, 670,000 tourists from the mainland visited Singapore, while 420,000 Singaporeans visited the mainland. The symposium, which ends tomorrow, will deliver a regional strategy to fight future outbreaks of Sars and other potential epidemics. On the agenda is a regional health surveillance mechanism, enabling countries to alert each other about potential outbreaks. Also attending the symposium are officials from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau.