With China now the world’s richest country by GDP and with an increasingly affluent middle class, often willing to spend high sums of money purchasing luxury goods abroad, destinations around the world are battling fiercely to attract the rapidly growing tourist Yuan.
Europe has enjoyed phenomenal tourism growth from China, and now is the leading destination for Chinese visitors outside Asia and how this position can be maintained and enhanced is a matter of earnest industry debate.
At the EU-China summit in July, President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that 2018 would be the EU-China Tourism Year.
This provides an unparalleled opportunity for EU tourism businesses to explore and understand the Chinese market.
The European Tourism Unit of the European Commission has therefore unveiled several initiatives designed to attract Chinese tourists to the EU.
They include the World Bridge Tourism project, sponsored by the European Commission, which will involve hosting 100 European tourism suppliers in May 2017, who will meet with a similar number of Chinese outbound operators.
This networking event will take place alongside ITB China in Shanghai and be followed by a similar event at the ETOA Global European Marketplace in November 2017 where 100 Chinese outbound operators will talk to nominate European suppliers.
These B2B events will be supported by an extensive programmer of research and webinars, which aim to improve the European tourism community’s awareness of Chinese traveler behaviors and requirements.
Speaking recently to Travel Daily UK, Tom Jenkins, CEO, ETOA, the European tourism association, said Chinese tourists were looking for itineraries that “included more than one country”, such as those offered by river cruise operators.
“The challenge [with the planned B2B meetings] will be to find new operators that the Chinese do not already know,” he said. “They normally want to speak to big operators.”
He described the World Bridge Tourism project as an “information gathering and awareness intensifying exercise”.
“China is a huge market, but young in every sense in that the demographics of the average traveler are more youthful,” Jenkins continued.
“One of the things that holds back adoption is new technology in terms of distribution. Europe has a long tradition of selling tourism through proven networks, which acts as a barrier to new tech.
“We have to consider that in China there is 100% smartphone penetration. European travel firms need to get to grips with new distribution methods and find ways that Chinese travelers can pay you – they u need to be smartphone payment enabled.”