Switzerland eager to attract more Chinese tourists: Swiss FM
Published: Feb 08, 2024 11:10 PM
Swiss Federal Councilor and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis speaks at a news conference at the Swiss Embassy in Beijing on February 7, 2024. Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

Swiss Federal Councilor and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis speaks at a news conference at the Swiss Embassy in Beijing on February 7, 2024. Photo: Xie Wenting/GT

"I heard that the Chinese people are very passionate about winter sports. Switzerland also hopes to better promote its winter tourism resources," Swiss Federal Councilor and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told the Global Times in Beijing on Wednesday.

Switzerland looks forward to strengthening cooperation with China on climate and environmental protection in order to better protect snow and ice resources, he said.

In terms of tourism, Cassis said that Switzerland will offer more convenient measures to encourage Chinese tourists to visit the country, including "more favorable visa policies."

Cassis visited China from Tuesday to Wednesday. On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi co-chaired the third round of the China-Switzerland Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue with Cassis in Beijing.

The two sides agreed to continue to respect each other's core interests and major concerns, respect each other's choice of system and development path, and to make good use of multiple inter-governmental dialogue and cooperation mechanisms. They also pledged to deepen cooperation in fields such as finance, science and innovation, education, intellectual property rights, climate change, green development and winter sports, read a Xinhua report.

Expressing their satisfaction with a feasibility study on upgrading the bilateral free-trade agreement, the two sides said they are willing to officially start the upgrade negotiations as soon as possible, according to Xinhua.

Cassis stressed that Switzerland warmly welcomes Chinese tourists and will provide more visa facilitation for Chinese citizens as well as Chinese enterprises investing in Switzerland.

At a press conference held at the Swiss Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday, Cassis said in response to a question from the Global Times that he was aware of the popularity of winter sports in China.

He told the Global Times that he has loved winter sports since he was young, and Switzerland has many snow-capped mountains. But unfortunately, due to climate change, much of the snow has melted in recent years. If the trend of global warming continues, many young people in the future may not be able to enjoy winter tourism and sports as much as they do today.

He said Switzerland hopes to better promote its own snow and ice resources, and therefore looks forward to closer cooperation with countries including China to address climate change and protect snow and ice resources.

This winter, Chinese people's enthusiasm for ice and snow tourism has been soaring. The continuous rise in popularity of ice and snow tourism in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province as well as in "ice city" Harbin, capital city of Heilongjiang, has even attracted attention in Switzerland. During the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland in January, CEO of Switzerland Tourism Martin Nydegger expressed astonishment at the popularity of winter tourism in Harbin and called out in Chinese, saying "My surname is Rui [in Chinese]." He welcomed Chinese tourists to visit Switzerland for sightseeing.

Wang Hongxin, director of the Harbin municipal bureau of culture, radio, television and tourism, responded by saying, "My surname is Ha, welcome to my home," welcoming friends from Switzerland to visit Harbin.

At Wednesday's press conference, Cassis noted that the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the flow of tourists between the two countries. Now, Switzerland is preparing to take a number of measures, such as visa facilitation, so that the people of the two countries can better understand each other through tourism.

Cassis's visit to China coincided with the eve of the Chinese New Year. When talking about his feelings about this visit at the press conference, he expressed great pleasure in coming to China at the end of the Year of the Rabbit. He said he had seen many dragon-shaped lanterns and felt the atmosphere of the Chinese New Year, while wishing everyone a happy new year.

"In China, the dragon symbolizes strength and wisdom. I hope everyone is full of strength and wisdom in the new year," he said.

According to a previous report by Xinhua News Agency, on the morning of January 15, China and Switzerland announced the completion of a joint feasibility study on upgrading the China-Switzerland Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and agreed to support the early launch of formal FTA upgrade negotiations. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce stated that based on further communication, both sides will fulfill their respective domestic procedures and strive to start the negotiations for the upgrade of the FTA as soon as possible. The two sides will conduct in-depth discussions in various areas including goods trade, services trade, investment, and rules, with the aim of creating a high-level upgraded agreement that benefits the enterprises and people of both countries.

The China-Switzerland FTA was signed in July 2013 and came into effect in July 2014. It is a high-level, comprehensive, and mutually beneficial agreement that has played a positive role in promoting economic and trade cooperation and development between the two countries. In 2017, China and Switzerland signed a memorandum of understanding to initiate a joint study on upgrading the FTA and to explore the possibility of further comprehensive upgrading.

In response to inquiries from reporters, Cassis said that the joint feasibility study on upgrading the China-Switzerland FTA has been completed.

As next year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Switzerland, he hopes that this opportunity can be used to complete the upgrade of the FTA, in order to better promote economic and trade exchanges and the development of bilateral relations. He also expressed appreciation for China's move to grant unilateral visa-free treatment to Switzerland, and Switzerland will provide more visa facilitation measures in return.