European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, Chinese Ambassador to the European Union Yang Yanyi and other EU officials said on Wednesday in Brussels that China is Europe's driving force of tourism sector. (Photo: For China Daily/Fu Jing)
The European Union is aiming to bring more Chinese tourists to the continent to help revive its economy, of which about 10 percent relies on tourism, the bloc's leaders said on Wednesday in Brussels at a high-level meeting on Europe's tourism.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said the Asian market will be a new driving force of Europe's tourism sector. "I think the Asia market should be our major target to help reach such goal in coming years," he said.
Tajani said the union's number of outward and inward tourists will be increased to 700 million by 2020 from 500 million last year.
When European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen addressed the conference, he said China has become Europe's major tourism market and both sides have named 2018 as the year of tourism, in terms of bilateral relations.
He said both sides will organize various events to promote the theme year, with the kickoff event scheduled in Venice in January 2018.
At the conference, Yang Yanyi, China's ambassador to EU, said it is encouraging to learn that tourism already accounts for some 10 percent of GDP and jobs in Europe and that the leaders of the EU institutions and member states have made the development of tourism a key strategic sector to help revive growth and competitiveness.
Yang also said in its drive to achieve creative, coordinated, green, open and shared development, China has made tourism a strategic pillar and a major driver of economic transformation and upgrading.
She revealed that as the world's leading tourism market, 135 million Chinese visitors traveled abroad in 2016 and spent 1. It is estimated that in the next five years China's outbound visitors in total will reach 700 million.
"Recognizing the importance of travel and tourism between China and Europe, the 19th China-EU Summit recently proclaimed 2018 as the China-EU Tourism Year," said Yang.
"The China-EU Tourism Year promises to maximize the full potential of one of the most important relationships in the world, not only from a tourism perspective, but across the board, economically, socially and academically," she said.
Luigi Gambardella, president of ChinaEU, a Brussels-based non-profit organization promoting digital cooperation between China and EU, said that China is becoming the largest country of origin of tourists in more and more EU countries, the Chinese tourists are among the most connected of the world due to digital revolution.
"Today, there are about 10 million Chinese tourists coming to Europe. Thanks to the internet, this number could easily double in the coming years," said Gambardella. "This is a challenge for Europe's tourism industry, and at the same time brings huge opportunities if Europe's tourism industry adapts in time. This is already happening."