Between 1949 and 1974, the People's Republic was closed to all but selected foreign visitors. In the late 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping decided to promote tourism vigorously as a means of earning foreign exchange, China started to develop its tourist industry. Major hotel construction programs greatly increased the number of hotels and guest houses, more historic and scenic spots were renovated and opened to tourists, and professional guides and other service personnel were trained.
The expansion of domestic and international airline traffic and other tourist transportation facilities made travel more convenient. Over 250 cities and counties had been opened to foreign visitors by the mid-1980s. Travelers needed only valid visas or residence permits to visit 100 locations; the remaining locales required travel permits from public security departments. In 1985 approximately 1.4 million foreigners visited China, and nearly US$1.3 billion was earned from tourism.