East-West Exchange

EU-China Tourism Year Under Spotlight

As ITB China is an official partner of the EU-China Tourism Year, the topic has very much been under the spotlight over the past couple of days. On Day One of the show, Philip C. Wolf, founder of Phocuswright, moderated a conference on the topic, attended by five high ranking officials from different sectors:

• Yi y i J iang, Head of Internat ional Tour ism Research, China Tourism Academy
• Raimonds Aleksejenko, Deputy State Secretary, Ministry of Economics of the Republic of Latvia
• Bojan Pavlek, First Secretary, EU Delegation to China
• Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Director, Business Finland Oy & Head of Visit Finland
• And Pierre Coenegrachts, Deputy Director, Wallonia Belgium Tourism Board

One of the biggest obstacles to the growth of Chinese tourist numbers into Europe is that of visa issuance – a topic addressed by the panel.

Bojan Pavlek said he believed more visa centres around China, where Chinese citizens could place their applications, would help the situation, adding, “This would of course lower the cost for visas and the time required for visas.

” Raimonds Aleksejenko said he believed relieving the issue will take time, but there are ways to move forward. “We are working with Alibaba Group. It is not about legislation. It’s about user experience. And with a partner like Alibaba, they do a lot of work instead of the client.”

Aleksejenko went on to explain that the use of Chinese payment systems such as Alipay is important, especially for small destinations.

Paavo Virkkunen said that “Convenience and ease are those words we are all craving for. Convenience and ease in visa issues, in payment methods, in connectivity, in combinability. I think those are the elements we really need, to create new creative digital platforms, which will ease our work and life very much.

” Pierre Coenegrachts said that in Belgium, his organisation is working with partners to implement the Chinese WeChat payment system: “More and more, maybe we will come to WeChat payments in Europe.”

Can the ECTY really going to make a difference? According to Bojan Pavlek, “It’s just a start. It has to be seen as a kickoff, as a platform, to gather all the actors in the tourism industry, to make a European market more attractive to Chinese people, but also not to forget an important fact, and that’s sustainability of tourism. The whole idea is to have this discussion about how to attract Chinese tourists and vice-versa. Where can we find synergies, and also, basically, that the industry itself engages and also adapts to the market”.