(STAR) LIVING ALIVE By Dero Pedero - Beauty and tourism, when combined, produce a highly potent marketing formula. For four years now, China has been hosting the Miss Tourism Queen International Beauty Pageant. The contest has grown into the largest international beauty and tourism event in the world with a record number of 108 delegates participating this year, surpassing even top pageants Miss Universe and Miss World.

Conceived and founded in 1949 by Charlie See, a sprightly 97-year-old Chinese-American who is the franchise owner of over 30 international pageants, the competition aims to enhance tourism development, forge friendship and understanding among nations, and promote international culture exchange.

This year, Miss Tourism Queen International was held in dynamic Zhengzhou City in the historic province of Henan. Filipina beauty Justine Gabionza, Miss Tourism Queen International 2006, crowned the 2007 winner, Russiaís Olga Zarubina at spectacular rites at the Zhengdong New District International Meeting and Exhibition Center.

For four weeks, the beauties became tourism ambassadors of their countries as they promoted their own cultures while visiting the most exciting scenic spots and tourist destinations in the region. Aside from Zhengzhou and Hangzhou, the ladies also toured picturesque Kaifeng, Luoyang, Nanyang and Anyang.

The beauty delegates traveled back through time in the ancient water town of Xitang, got captivated by kung fu at the legendary shaolin temple, negotiated the rushing rivers at Shuangxi, breathed pure oxygen in the cool, verdant mountains of Baiyun, delighted in the placid West Lake of Hangzhou, and enjoyed a fascinating dose of Chinese history at the Xiao Baicai culture park.

The pageant brings excitement and joy to millions of people in China who see the delegates in person and watch the world finals on television. With more than two billion people viewing the pageantís international telecast, the world becomes aware of the tourist spots and rich cultural heritage of China. It is estimated that holding the contest brings in 25 to 30 percent of the tourism revenue to the host town or city, drawing foreign tourists and launching greater international cooperation and business opportunities.

Acting as a platform to market and promote tourism attractions as well as Chinaís colorful history and culture, the Miss Tourism Queen International pageant opens the Chinese tourism market to domestic tourists and to the world. Maybe the Philippines should follow suit and use this ingenious strategy that combines the irresistible power of beauty and tourism.

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Special thanks to Alex Liu, president of MTQI, Kevin Zhang, executive president of MTQI, Ramon Monzon and Lorraine Schuck of Carousel Productions; as well as Jerome To, Sean Chia, Antonio Qi, Vivien Ng, Anna Koh, Jessica Zeng and Gem Mayo.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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