Shenzhen began life as a back yard for Hong Kong? factories, but today it has become a back yard for everyone to enjoy. With an official 35.2 square metres of planted ground per resident (43 percent of the total land), it has secured bragging rights as the mainland?s No1 garden city. This might be hard to imagine driving through the downtown area of Luohu (Lowu in Cantonese), but once you get out on either the Binhe or Shennan thoroughfares leading up the coast to Shekou, it is clear how the city has done it. Mile after mile of well-maintained flower beds and grassy lawns make for a very relaxing journey. Add these man-made oxygen tanks to 200 km of coastline and a hilly backdrop, and you get more than enough green and blue to offset the gray of the city centre. Chi Xiong Biao, director of the Shenzhen Tourism Bureau, is obviously proud of the city?s ecological selling points. He is also equally excited about the future. ?We will build Shenzhen into a beautiful seashore city,? he said in an interview. There may still be a way to go, but this is clearly not idle talk. The Overseas Chinese Town group, which runs the theme parks in the Nanshan district, plans to spend 4 billion yuan on a new Ecological Park that will open by the end of next year. Billions more have been earmarked for upgrading tourism infrastructure to ensure that the environment is better protected in coming years. Perhaps the one project that will have the biggest effect on the city?s environment will be the Mass Transit Railway system, which is due to open at the year?s end. Mr Chi waves away concerns about the tight deadline, insisting that the first line, running from the Luohu main station all the way out to the Nanshan district, will be ready. When it is, Luohu will be transformed, as traffic will move underground and the eyesore of a construction site will be grassed over. The second line will extend right to the airport. The tourism chief concedes that Shen-zhen?s development in the past two decades has created a transport system that is ?fuza?, or bafflingly complex. But it has been steadily improving, and will get a boost by government efforts to put civil servants on a schedule that brings them to work at different times than the rest of the population. Meanwhile, the Bao?an International Airport has just had a new second terminal built to handle its increasing number of flights to mainland destinations. It is now the mainland?s fourth busiest airport, and is expected to see passenger traffic of 12 million this year. There?s no point making all these changes, however, if no one outside of Shenzhen knows about it. And so the tourism bureau has been busy cooperating with counterparts across the mainland and in Hong Kong. ?We see no competition for tourists with Hong Kong,? Mr Chi says. ?In fact, we are complementary.? The two cities? tourism bureaus have been practicing what they preach, conducting joint roadshows in Chengdu and Malaysia in June this year. Similar promotions are planned for next year in India and Wuhan, and at the International Lions? Club conference in Hong Kong. Bringing in more foreign tourists is one thing; catering to them in English is another. With this in mind, the city has launched a campaign to teach a million residents English. Particular focus is being placed on taxi drivers and staff in the hotel and catering industries. The motivation to do all this is obvious from Shenzhen?s side. Disney will open its long-awaited park in Hong Kong towards the end of next year, and Shenzhen hopes to convince a chunk of new travelers to Hong Kong to extend their trips by visiting its hinterland. ?The Pearl River Delta has many different flavours,? Mr Chi says. ?We are sure we can attract at least some of the new Hong Kong visitors to sample ours.?