Grey, heavily polluted and overcrowded, Beijing may not be the obvious honeymoon destination. But optimistic city officials plan to bill it as an alternative to Hawaii for romantic interludes. In a new tourism campaign, municipal authorities are encouraging people to consider Beijing as a place to wed and enjoy their honeymoons. 'When couples search for an ideal destination for weddings or honeymoons, they often think of exotic island locations. We want them to start thinking more about Beijing,' said Li Jicheng, an official from the city's tourism bureau. To promote the concept, the city held a 'culture of marriage' parade on Ping'an Avenue yesterday. Beijing is alive with romance, say officials who want people to consider tying the knot on the Great Wall, holding a wedding reception in the Forbidden City or taking their vows in the Great Hall of the People. The parade, which featured couples kissing on ornate wagons, artists clad in wedding costumes and dancers and singers from more than 50 countries, involved about 3,000 performers and marked the finale of the Sixth Beijing International Tourism Festival. 'The idea to promote Beijing as a marriage and honeymoon destination first came about after the Sars crisis,' said Yu Changjiang, who heads the city's tourism bureau. 'It's part of an overall drive to rejuvenate the tourism industry here.' Hawaii is the industry leader for romantic holidays. Closer to home, Beijing officials look with jealously to Thailand, which has a large slice of the honeymoon market. The centrepiece of the festival parade, which cost about six million yuan, (HK$5.6 million) was 100 smiling couples from China's ethnic minority groups and overseas. Dressed in traditional costumes from their region or country of origin, the couples were paraded through the streets before being presented with souvenirs. The festival and parade coincided with the general assembly meeting of the World Tourism Organisation in the capital. The organisation predicts that by 2020 China will receive 130 million international arrivals a year.