By BELINDA SCOTT
WENDY WU added another notch to her traveller's belt this week.
The dynamic young travel guru, who has been credited with adding China to the ranks of affordable package holidays, made her first visit to Coffs Harbour as part of a national tour and said she would definitely be back again.
In a vote which will hearten the city's tourism industry, she said the weather was perfect, the people friendly and ? her highest recommendation ? Coffs Harbour was 'good value for money'.
And yesterday, after spruiking China and Indochina to 45 travellers and 14 travel agents at a film night and a business breakfast she said she would be adding Coffs Harbour to her company's list of national tour destinations.
It was not just the enthusiasm of the city's travellers, but the quality of its travel agents that saw Coffs Harbour added to her itinerary, Ms Wu said.
Wendy Wu, an energetic traveller and promoter whose company Wendy Wu Tours has seen a meteoric rise in eight years, has just moved to London from Sydney to open the new headquarters of Wendy Wu Tours UK.
WWT has always specialised in tours to China and has more recently added package tours to India and Vietnam.
The company's growth has been undeterred by SARS outbreaks, diplomatic stoushes, Falun Gong, international tensions, terrorism, tsunamis, earthquakes or bird flu.
But in 1993 Wendy Wu was desperate and jobless in Sydney.
As a young graduate petroleum chemist, Wendy Wu arrived in Australia in 1993 from China to work as a research assistant to a Sydney-based chemistry professor.
When the professor was head-hunted to the USA, she was left in limbo, with no job and speaking virtually no English. She 'fell into' a job in a travel agency, Century Travel, and found 'the most wonderful boss and mentor' and also her vocation.
With his encouragement, she began developing what became known as the world's best-value package tour to China.
When her tour business outgrew the travel agency, her boss encouraged her to launch out on her own, which she did in 1998 and the firm has seen dramatic growth every year since.
Ms Wu said China's culture was the first attraction for travellers, but they then became hooked and wanted to return again and again, so she was kept busy developing new tours.
Born in Tibet, where her parents were working as doctors, Ms Wu designs the China tours herself.
She said the frantic pace of life in China was also exciting for Australians accustomed to a slower rate of progress.
"In China every minute of every day it is buzz, buzz ? everything is happening so fast, which is exciting. If you go back to the same room of the same hotel in Beijing every year the view is different, because they are always building," she said.