Written by Vasileios Margaras,
EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY) was launched in Venice on 19 January 2018. This initiative, agreed at the 2017 EU China Summit, aims at supporting the development of new and better travel itineraries, promoting inter-cultural understanding, and enhancing travel and tourism experiences, including greater promotion and more sustainable tourism.
Europe is the leading destination for international tourist arrivals worldwide. Tourism is one of the economic sectors with considerable potential for generating growth and jobs in the EU. However, the sector faces quite a number of challenges in its efforts to remain competitive. One of these is the increasing competition from emerging non-European destinations. After Asia, Europe was the second destination of choice for Chinese tourists in 2015, accounting for about 11.5 % of the total population – or 12.5 million people. However, the great majority of Chinese tourists prefer to travel to their neighbouring countries.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), China continues to consolidate its position as the world’s largest travel market in terms of both outbound travel and expenditure. As the Chinese economy is booming, larger sectors of the population can afford international travel. Prospects for growth in terms of Chinese tourist arrivals in the EU are therefore considerable. In addition, according to the European Travel Commission (ETC) 11/2017 Barometer, Chinese tourists are likely to spend much more in Europe than travellers from other overseas markets.
To attract more Chinese tourists to the EU, the EU and China are committed to making progress on visa facilitation. The negotiations were formally launched in Beijing in 2017 by Commissioner Avramopoulos and his Chinese counterpart, Guo Shengkun, the State Councillor and Minister for Public Security. In addition, the EU and China are working to ensure that EU airlines can benefit from the opportunities of the existing bilateral air transport agreements between individual EU Member States and China.
The European Commission supports the ETC in its marketing role preparing cooperative campaigns advertising trans-European itineraries and EU destinations designed specifically for the Chinese market. The EU-China Tourism Year will include a number of campaigns funded through public-private partnerships, business summits, and business-to-business meetings, for tourism operators funded by the COSME programme. A number of events commemorating the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year are planned in EU countries and China throughout the year.
On World Tourism Day, 27 September 2017, the European Parliament organised a high-level conference on tourism under the initiative of its President, Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy), where the importance of the EU-China Tourism Year was underlined. The European Parliament monitors developments in tourism through the work of its Committee on Transport and Tourism as well as a dedicated task force, the Intergroup on Tourism, and through the work of other relevant committees.