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Tourism boom: China's great leap forward

Tourism boom: China's great leap forward
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In the past two decades, China has become the world’s fastest growing outbound tourism market.

And as China’s middle class grows, so will the demand for travel. The World Tourism Organisation predicts that China will account for a quarter of all international tourism by 2030.

Dr. Dineke Koerts, from the Academy for Tourism at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, is an expert in Chinese tourism.

Business Planet’s Paul Hackett spoke to her about the growing Chinese tourism market.

Business Planet: "What more could Europe be doing to encourage Chinese visitors to Europe?"

Dineke Koerts: "I think Chinese tourists, and especially independent tourists, are looking for good flight connections, easy visa procedures, that's very important for them, especially independent tourists when they decide where to travel. Also safety is a big concern and a welcoming attitude towards Chinese visitors. I would say that these things are quite relevant."

Business Planet: "What's the growth potential of this market?"

Dineke Koerts: "The growth potential I would say is perhaps beyond imagination, if we realise that currently less than 10 percent of the Chinese population of 1.4 billion, more or less, hold passports. So it means, and with the middle class continuing to grow, it means that lots of Chinese tourists will be travelling the world and they have also developed a real appetite for travel. Currently domestic tourism is the main market and everywhere in China you come across huge crowds of tourists exploring their own country. And outbound tourism is definitely on the rise. Mainly to Asia, top Asian destinations are for example Thailand, Japan but also other areas. But Europe is also popular but quite expensive and visa problems or flight connections can also be an issue for tourists to decide on another destination."

Business Planet: “In terms of EU initiatives, like the EU-China Tourism Year, the COSME programme, how is that helping to boost tourism from China to Europe?

Dineke Koerts: "I think the EU-China Tourism Year, that was 2018, was very important in drawing attention to Europe and also to the lesser known parts of Europe. In China and also putting Europe on the map as a suitable destination for off-season travel. The main holidays in China are around October the 1st and January-February, so not the European high summer season. Further, during the EU-China Tourism Year, many business to business matchmaking events were organised, putting European and Chinese tour operators and other tourism providers in touch with each other. And, if you go to the website of the EU-China Tourism Year there is lots of interesting material available, webinars and other leads, especially small and medium enterprises, to explore their possible market in China."

Business Planet: "How crucial is it for companies in Europe to have that local contact on the ground in China?"

Dineke Koerts: "I think if you don't know anything about China you will have a very hard time to create a market or to attract Chinese tourists. So, knowledge of the Chinese tourism market, of online social media and how to present yourself as a destination or a hotel or a tour operator is very important. For me personally I think it's something that you cannot do without. Also, what is quite interesting and important in shaping the interests of Chinese tourists for destinations are their social media, many different social media platforms. Also key opinion leaders, so travel bloggers or movie stars that visit certain destinations are very important in triggering the interests of Chinese tourists to visit certain places. So key opinion leaders and television series or movies can also be quite relevant in sparking the interest of Chinese tourists."