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The Chinese are quickly becoming the largest group of intercontinental travellers. Those travelling to Europe are now spending more money on average than American visitors. Many of them see Europe as a single destination, visiting 3 to 4 countries per trip. While more and more Europeans are also travelling to China, tourism is one of the few sectors where the EU has a positive balance of payments with China.
The 2018 EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY) aims at increasing the flow of visitors and investment on both sides. Given the high number of Chinese tourists visiting Europe, the activities of the year are likely to bring considerable benefits to the EU industry. It is also an occasion for European and Chinese communities to get to know and appreciate each other better.
Launching the Year in Venice on 19 January, European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska highlighted that "for hundreds of years there have been already exchanges between peoples. Initiatives like the EU-China Tourism Year continue in that vein. In the EU alone, tourism employs over 10 million people in 2 million businesses. This year will bring many economic and cultural opportunities to both companies and citizens."
The initiative is expected to generate an annual increase of 10% of Chinese visitors to Europe above the current trend, representing at least EUR 1 billion each year for the EU tourism industry.
Together with Chinese representatives, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova of Bulgaria, (which is currently holding the Presidency of the Council), and Italian Minister of Tourism Dario Franceschini, were also present at the launch.
The Year takes place within the framework of the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage, and is designed to attract more Chinese visitors to a wider variety of tourism destinations in Europe. With 50 initiatives already scheduled during the year and more being planned, it is a way to develop a better understanding between European and Chinese people. All 28 EU Member States are also participating in the Year, through the Tourism Advisory Committee and the European Travel Commission. It will include major marketing campaigns in China funded through Public-Private Partnerships with the aim of branding and promoting the EU as a tourism destination, as well as 5.000 one-to-one meetings between EU and Chinese businesses during 10 business-to-business matchmaking (B2B) events funded by COSME, on the occasion of major travel fairs in the EU and in China.
On 2 March a symbolic “Bridge of Light” will be formed when European landmarks will be lit up in red for the Chinese lantern festival, and Chinese landmarks will be lit up in blue on 9 May for Europe Day.