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6 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES,

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES, INVESTMENT GROWTH AND PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE EXCHANGE THE PROMISE OF THE 2018 EU-CHINA TOURISM YEAR On July 2016, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Li Keqiang, jointly declared 2018 to be the official EU-China Tourism Year. This initiative was inaugurated earlier this year, on 19 January, in the Doge’s Palace of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Venice. The blocs’ strong interest for this initiative was evident in the lead-up and throughout unravelling of the event. On this occasion, Elżbieta Bieńkowska, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs — also responsible for tourism — officially opened the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year together with Qi Xuchun, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. each other’s places, cultures, and traditions. And we both want to stimulate new investment opportunities in the European Union and China alike.” There are three specific objectives the EU is striving to achieve during this special year. As a first priority, the EU aims to promote sustainable tourism and attract more Chinese travellers lesser-known destinations. Secondly, In her opening speech, Commissioner Bieńkowska underlined the importance of EU-China relations and the Year of Tourism. She stressed how Europe and China represent some of the oldest civilizations in the world and, as a result, strong historical relations. Marco Polo, the most prominent resident of Venice went on his epic journey to China over 750 years ago, paving the way for “greater and greater exchanges between our people”. 94 Today, this outlook continues. According to Elżbieta Bieńkowska, initiatives like the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year, are “good for both the EU and China. We both want to improve mutual understanding between European and Chinese peoples. We both want to encourage more Europeans and Chinese to visit, discover and appreciate Alexander Alles

Doge’s Palace of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Venice © Diplomatic World the EU is looking to increase investment towards the tourism industry. As such, the EU is continuing to work with Chinese authorities to eliminate the existing barriers which hinder bilateral relations in this sector. And thirdly, the EU hopes that the ongoing negotiations on EU-China visa facilitation and air connectivity, will advance smoothly. From the Chinese side, during the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Li Keqiang sent a message to the audience underlining that the importance of fostering a solid and strategic partnership in this sector is twofold. On one hand, strengthening bilateral ties enhances cultural exchanges while, on the other, it foster international friendship between both blocs. According to Mr Li, this initiative will “extend China- EU tourism cooperation and personnel exchanges and to promote dialogue, development and mutual benefits.” In general, economic relations between the EU and China are not always easy. Tourism, however, offers a wide range of opportunities for both sides, and the developments go to show that it is, indeed a profitable sector. Specifically in the case of Chinese outbound tourism, it is important to look back to the political context surrounding this sector — only thirty-five years ago. In 1983 the Chinese government took the first step towards liberalizing travel, allowing citizens to leave the country under the strict condition that they visit relatives abroad. This policy lasted for over a decade when, in 1997, travel restrictions were dropped for all citizens, marking the official start of outbound travel from China. This is where Chinese start discovering traveling for leisure. Today, the country is the largest market source of international tourists in the world. This change has been exponential, shifting global travel movements and strongly impacting the economic landscape. According to the China Daily, 69.5 million people travelled to China in 2017. On the flipside, in 2016, Chinese travellers accounted for 136.8 million of international tourism abroad, spending over USD 200 billion. 48.8% of border crossings were within the Greater China, while 51.2% of the total were outside. This switch was particularly evident in 2016, the first year in which more Chinese tourists travelled to destinations beyond Greater China than to those within it. 95