High-level representatives from the European Union (EU) and China gathered at the Doge’s Palace to celebrate the official opening of 2018 China-EU Tourism Year, aimed at strengthening both tourism exchanges and mutual understanding. The goals of the 12-month-long initiative would include promoting sustainable tourism, encouraging investment opportunities, improving connectivity (flight connections), and the safety of Chinese travellers, and boosting ongoing negotiations on visa facilitation.
“This will hopefully be a great opportunity to enhance people-to-people dialogue among Europeans and Chinese,” Elzbieta Bienkowska, EU Commissioner for internal market, said at the opening ceremony of China-EU Tourism Year. “Yet, it will also be a very concrete proof of our cultural and economic diplomacy, because tourism is really a very serious economic sector in Europe,” she stressed.
In the EU alone, tourism would employ over 10 million people in about 2 million businesses, according to the EU official. Undoubtedly, the sector appears to be increasingly relevant for both partners. Europe has become the third largest destination for Chinese travelling abroad, Ambassador Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, recently told Xinhua in Brussels.
The ambassador cited statistics that the number of Chinese citizens visiting the EU countries in 2016 was nearly 3.5 million. That brings about 11.49 billion U.S. dollars to Europe. Meanwhile, the number of EU citizens going to China was over 3.1 million, yielding an estimated 14.17 billion U.S. dollars to China. Overall, about 122 million Chinese travelled abroad (worldwide) in 2016, spending some 109.8 billion U.S. dollars, according to data by the Chinese Tourism Academy.
Alongside the ceremony, operators from both sides met at the first EU-China Tourism business summit, aiming at boosting contacts and exchanges. A declared target of the initiative was “to have over 200 partnership agreements between EU and Chinese companies by the end of the year (2018).”
Among the planned strategies was the idea of strengthening the offer of alternative routes in addition to the best-known and traditional destinations on both sides. On this topic, at the end of the ceremony, Italy and China signed a specific protocol, which included the twinning of their respective UNESCO World Heritage Sites.