Contestants to tour 12 nations spending as little as possible He has seen the world on a shoestring budget of US$3,000. His adventures in 28 countries over 77 days in 2003 spawned two best-selling books, and his public speeches in more then 400 universities have whipped up a frenzy of interest in solo international travel. Now, Zhu Zhaorui is moving on, creating the mainland's first reality-TV show modelled on The Amazing Race. The 35-year-old 'smart travel' pioneer has teamed up with Goldjoy Film and Television to select six travel partners to star in a reality-TV show based on his five-continent, around-the-globe tour, starting this September. Mr Zhu and a team of 18 full-time staff are working on his new pet project, Round the World on US$3,000, and more than 60,000 people have signed up for nationwide contests starting later this month. The top six finalists will join Mr Zhu for a tour of at least 12 countries on five continents on as small a budget as possible, if not exactly US$3,000. But the British-MBA graduate says cheap travel is not necessarily the point of the show. He is not promoting backpacking, youth hotels and fast-food restaurants, but a new concept of 'smart travel'. He said: 'In [smart travel] you plan your trip using business savvy instead of simple calculations, and you end up with maximum value for your money.' Mr Zhu said that despite his tight budget, he managed to stay in hotels of at least four stars and eat well on his trip by taking advantage of promotions and discounts offered by airlines and hotels. At one stage, he managed to buy an air ticket from Brussels to London for less than Euro1 (less than $10). 'So you don't need to compromise the quality of travel while enjoying the best deals possible,' he added. Angela Ke, a 30-year-old from Guangzhou, said she signed up for the contests because she wanted to see for herself how Mr Zhu had done it. Ms Ke, an exhibition promoter and frequent business traveller, said even her overseas counterparts were amazed by Mr Zhu's experiences because they rarely noticed such deals. Liu Xiaodong , a 50-year-old junior high school teacher from Shenzhen who has visited 15 countries, said international travel had helped him better understand other countries. He thought China could become 'a better place by understanding other cultures and different ways of living'. Mr Liu said he would be thrilled to be in the final team because 'smart trips' would involve a great deal of self-management and planning. Kang Ying, a spokeswoman for the Round the World on US$3,000 organising committee, said preliminary selections like those used for the Super Girl talent show would be held in six mainland cities starting later this month. Contestants would be judged on their communications skills, knowledge, level of physical fitness and motivation. Ms Kang said the top six would draw up competing itineraries, making use of the best deals possible, and the winner would be the one who budgeted the best. Mr Zhu said the competition was intended to show that international travel was not as difficult as many believed, especially as China's international status and living standards rose. 'I wouldn't have suggested such a programme 10 years ago, because the time wasn't ripe, nor 10 years in the future, as no one will need my advice on international travel then,' he said. Mr Zhu has also set his sights on establishing a global travel agency to promote 'smart travel', catering to mainlanders' increasing demand for self-guided international tours.