2018 EU-China Tourism Year ends on a high note in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province

By Huang Tingting in Xi'an Source:Global Times Published: 2018/11/20 18:18:40


Attendees take photos with performers dressed in traditional Chinese clothing at the closing ceremony. Photo: Huang Tingting/GT


The 2018 EU-China Tourism Year closing ceremony held in Xi'an on Saturday Photo: European Union, 2018 

Coming to an end on Saturday in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY) helped boost tourism and bring together some 16,000 Chinese and European tourism businesses from both sides, Lowri Evans, EU commission director-general for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, said at the event's closing ceremony.

Featuring more than 100 tourist campaigns and activities over the past 10 months aimed at promoting both Chinese and European destinations and connecting Chinese and EU tourism businesses, the ECTY attempted to "bring as many Chinese tourists into Europe and European tourists to China as possible," EU Ambassador to China Nicholas Chapuis said at a press conference in Beijing on November 12.

Looking at data from the past 10 months, it seems that the event has been a success for China's most popular tourist cities.

"The number of European tourists to Xi'an [as of October of] this year reached 700,000, a year-on-year increase of 7.57 percent, while the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Europe through Xi'an travel agencies in the past three quarters was around 215,000, a year-on-year increase of 33 percent," said Zhao Gang, vice governor of the Shaanxi provincial government, noting that these increases were in part due to the impact of the ETCY.

Though the EU has yet to release its 2018 tourism data, Chapuis was positive about this year's growth due to Chinese visitors' tendency to stay longer in European countries in recent years.

"Take France for instance, we have hotel figures that show the average number of nights that Chinese tourists stay went from one night to three nights, and this is true for other European countries - this is a very good trend," Chapuis told press on November 12.

China is now the world's second-largest country for applying for European visas following Russia. In 2017, the EU Embassy in China issued around 2.5 million visas to Chinese tourists and expects to see this number grow in the near future if its ongoing negotiation about visa facilitation with Chinese authorities yields fruit.

To improve the travel experience for Chinese tourists traveling in Europe, the EU is also looking to increase the availability of Wi-Fi access, Chinese cuisine and Chinese e-payment platforms such as WeChat and Alipay.

EU Embassy to China officers at the Beijing press conference did, however, note that the availability of e-payments still "depends on member states."

Cooperation under the ECTY framework has allowed travelers between China and EU member states to enjoy more conveniences brought by the launch of new direct flights including the Shenyang-Frankfurt, Nanjing-Helsinki and Guangzhou-Rome routes, the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Economic Report noted in September.

Another important task of this year's ECTY, Evans said, was to introduce lesser-known tourist destinations in Europe to Chinese tourists, such as Bled Lake in Slovenia and the town of Fussen in Germany, both of which were promoted at ECTY's Experience Europe: Hidden Gems exhibition held in both Beijing and Xi'an in October.

"Take Portugal, where I work, for example. The country is not a popular choice among Chinese tourists mainly because many Chinese tourists knew little about it… we came to this event hoping to establish more business contacts," Wang Jing, the manager of PT Premium Star Travel in Portugal, told the Global Times at a business-to-business matchmaking event held on Saturday as part of the closing activities.

So far, Chinese tourists' favorite go-to choices are still limited to major European destinations.

The China Tourism Academy-Ctrip report showed that France was the most popular destination in Europe among Chinese travelers during the first half of this year, followed by Germany, Italy and Spain.

Newspaper headline: Happy travels


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