Europe Bets Big on Chinese Tourism with Year of Tourism, Industry Events

In a press event hosted by upcoming travel trade fair ITB China and its Chinese joint venture partner TravelDaily China, Europe laid out its plans for greater efforts to boost tourism between China and the EU.

Eduardo Santander, executive director of the European Travel Commission (ETC)—which represents European national tourism organizations—said that the European Commission is making huge investments in the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year. Santander argued that Europe as already reached the “awareness phase” in the Chinese market, and that the challenge now is to enhance Chinese consumers’ understanding of Europe as a destination. Santander also emphasized that Europe needs to understand the Chinese market better, and to look beyond the large cities in East China.

Even though the EU-China Tourism Year still lies a year into the future, efforts are being made to enhance the promotion of Europe as a destination already in 2017. ITB China, the Chinese counterpart of ITB Berlin—the world’s largest tourism fair—is hosting Visit Europe as its official partner destination for the inaugural event in May 2017, and outlined further collaboration during the tourism year in 2018.

The European Commission has also invested in what is called the World Bridge Tourism initiative; an EU initiative carried out by the ETC and the European Tourism Association (ETOA) that aims to grow the number of Chinese visitors to Europe by encouraging stronger business ties between European and Chinese tourism businesses. The initiative includes a conference as well as business workshops that bring European tourism suppliers and Chinese tour operators together, first for two days in Shanghai in conjunction with the ITB China fair, and later in the fall of 2017, doing a similar round of events on European soil. According to Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA, both events will host 150 European tourism suppliers and 100 Chinese tourism buyers. It was also announced that the EU had granted additional funding to carry out tourism workshops in both China and the EU to strengthen tourism ties further. The European Commission, which created the initial outline for the project, as well as funds the project, was also represented at the press event, briefly emphasizing the importance of Chinese tourism to Europe as a region.

While strengthening the European tourism businesses with the help of Chinese tourism is a clear goal of both the World Bridge Tourism initiative and the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year, Santander also underlined that the designated tourism year “goes beyond tourism,” emphasizing the importance of more people-to-people interactions to reduce existing “misunderstandings” between Chinese and European people.

The event also hosted speakers from some of China’s largest tourism companies, including representatives from Jin Jiang Hotels, Ctrip, and Tuniu—all outlining their ambitions for future growth. Jin Jiang, which acquired Europe’s second-largest budget hotel chain, Groupe De Louvre, back in 2015 also has to ambition to expand in the European luxury hotel market. Ctrip, meanwhile, acquired Scotland-based Skyscanner to strengthen its position in the European market late last year. Tuniu, meanwhile, has partnered with ITB China and promises to send a large number of its buyers to the May event—where 40 percent of exhibitors represent European destinations and tourism businesses. While Europe may be looking to China for future tourism growth, it seems like large Chinese tourism businesses are looking to Europe for their own global expansions.

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