The upcoming China-EU Tourism Year will not only promote the industry, but also boost mutual understanding and overall ties between the two sides, Ambassador Zhang Ming, head of the Chinese Mission to the European Union (EU), said in an interview.
The Tourism Year, jointly declared by China and the EU, will see its official launch on Friday in Venice, Italy.
INDUSTRY GAINING MOMENTUM
Europe is the third largest destination for Chinese citizens traveling abroad, Zhang said, citing statistics that the number of Chinese citizens visiting the EU countries in 2016 was nearly 3.5 million. That brings about 11.49 billion U.S. dollars to Europe. Meanwhile, the number of EU citizens going to China was over 3.1 million, yielding an estimated 14.17 billion U.S. dollars to China.
And the tourism is still gaining momentum, according to the ambassador. "What is most impressive is that the number of Chinese citizens traveling to Europe has been rapidly rising in recent years, increasing by 65 percent in the first half of 2017," said Zhang.
The momentum is not simply reflected in numbers but also in dimensions. "Chinese tourists not only stick to classic destinations such as Italy and France, but also are going to emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe. For example, with the help of a TV series, the number of Chinese tourists in Croatia increased tenfold last year."
As an industry involving many businesses, tourism plays a unique role in promoting growth, increasing employment and boosting consumption, Zhang said.
PEOPLES GETTING CLOSER
In the eyes of the Chinese senior diplomat, the Tourism Year is not only an occasion to promote the industry, but also an opportunity to enhance mutual understanding and cognition between the two peoples.
"A good tour is not just about landscapes, foods or souveniers, but more about exploring a new world, which has different customs, culture, lifestyle and thinkings. These experiences are good to both the travelers and the relations between the countries they come from and to," said Zhang.
According to the ambassador, the key to the sound relationship between China and EU lies in the affinity between their citizens. So while bringing new impetus to economic growth and employment, tourism is also expected to bring closer the hearts of the two peoples.
"While peoples' are getting closer, the foundation of the China-EU ties will become more solid," said Zhang.
China and EU are working together to boost such people exchanges, including tourism, according to the ambassador.
Mobility support has been listed as one of the "five major platforms" for China-EU cooperation, and both sides are talking about greater visa access, said Zhang.
CHINA-EU TIES PROSPECTS VAST
2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU.
The Chinese diplomat believe that making the year a Tourism Year will bring a boost to China-EU relations in all rounds.
And the Italian city of Venice was chosen as the place where the Tourism Year is launched also means a lot.
The world famous lagoon city in the Adriatic Sea was a major trade and shipping center in Europe in history, and more important it's a gateway to the ancient Silk Road. It's a European city many Chinese tourists love to visit and are familiar with, according to the Chinese diplomat.
"The opening ceremony of the Tourism Year in Venice can bring about an epic communication of time and space between the two ancient civilizations," Zhang said.
Talking about the recent development of the China-EU ties, the Chinese senior diplomat said the relations between China and EU have reached unprecedented breadth and depth. The boost to mutual ties from the Tourism Year will also be on multiple fronts, he said.
"I firmly believe that the fundamentals of China-EU relations are positive and their development prospects are vast. China attaches great importance to the relations and firmly supports European integration. China hopes that deepening China-EU cooperation will bring more practical benefits to people and provide more stability to the international community," Zhang said.
In promoting a new type of international relations and building a community of shared future for mankind, China and the EU can become close partners, said the Chinese ambassador.