BRI markets expected to see tourism boom from Chinese travelers

By Wang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/25 20:23:40


A view of Venice, Italy in February Photo: IC



Countries and regions along the routes of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), especially those in eastern Europe, are expected to see a tourism boom from China as more BRI projects usher in better ties in terms of financial integration and policy coordination.

Trips to BRI countries and regions by Chinese tourists grew 77 percent from 2013 to 2017, reaching 27.41 million, and the number is estimated to reach 30 million by the end of 2018, according to a report jointly released by Chinese travel site Ctrip.com and the China Economic Information Service of the Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday.

Bookings on Ctrip.com for BRI markets increased 63 percent year-on-year in 2018, according to the report. 

The uptrend is expected to continue, said Zhang Lingyun, director of the Tourism Development Academy at Beijing Union University.

Zhang told the Global Times on Thursday that "the eastern European region will embrace better opportunities, while South Asia and the Middle East will see weaker business. Southeast Asia is expected to remain popular among Chinese tourists."

Eastern European countries have better potential because many Chinese people developed an emotional connection to the region when they were young due to the close relationship between China and these countries at the time, Zhang said.

As to other regions, as long as Chinese tourists feel safe and find it convenient to experience foreign cultures, things will work out, Zhang added.

China's travel agencies are exploring new products to attract more clients. Ctrip.com has so far offered more than 80,000 new itineraries to tourists, 90 percent of which are planned for Europe and Southeast Asia, the agency told the Global Times on Thursday.

"The newly launched Belt and Road recreational vehicle (RV) program around Europe is quite popular now," the agency said.

A Beijing based white-collar worker surnamed Chen told the Global Times on Thursday that she would like to join the RV program in the future as she has always wanted to visit Europe and she is also interested in the status of BRI projects.

BRI countries and regions are estimated to see more than $200 billion in income from Chinese tourists from 2016 to 2020, data from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism showed. 

"I hope to see more facilitation policies like visa waiver programs and financial integration that will enable mobile phone payments," Chen said.

Emaar Properties, the developer of the iconic Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and several thriving residential communities in Dubai, launched the first WeChat Mini-Program that is fully integrated with WeChat Pay last week, according to reports.

China's UnionPay International also signed cooperation agreements with major financial institutions from Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan on Tuesday, media reports said.

Warming political relationships and closer business connections with China are likely to lure more Chinese travelers to these countries, Zhang said.

"If other European countries like Switzerland join the BRI and more measures for facilitating tourism are carried out, I would definitely make plans to visit," Chen said.



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