How is Chinese outbound tourism progressing in Europe, and what are the key trends? We put the question to the CEO of the European Travel Commission, Eduardo Santander during the recent ITB China in Shanghai.
China is the world’s largest travel market in terms of both outbound travel and expenditure. With a 14% share of the total Chinese outbound travel market, Europe saw a remarkable 16% increase in tourist arrivals from China in 2017, reaching record 13.4 million arrivals. We are confident that Europe will remain a popular travel destination for the Chinese outbound market. The ETC forecasts an average 9.3% annual growth in tourist arrivals from China over the next three years.
Please tell us more about the China Operations Group.
The Operations Group is ETC’s representative body in China, bringing together the European tourist offices in the market. The purpose of the OG is to provide guidance on the marketing activities of the ETC in China. As this year witnesses a strong focus on the EU-China relations, the role of the OG is of great importance for the organisation. The group is currently chaired by Ms. Ludivine Destrée, China Market Manager at Wallonia Belgium Tourism.
How important will the “EU-China Tourism Year” be in boosting tourism, and what part is the ETC playing?
The 2018 EU-China Tourism Year is a great opportunity for the European tourism industry to explore the Chinese market, but also learn how to attract Chinese visitors and offer them the best experience. On this occasion, ETC has developed a series of cooperative marketing programmes to support the promotion of European destinations and travel experiences in China. These programmes include a variety of activities, from B2B matchmaking events to FAM trips for operators and media. Participants in these cooperative marketing programmes will gain access to joint activities at European level that are not feasible on a single basis or that they would be challenged to do on their own leveraged by economies of scale and their European scope.
You organised a major fam-tour for Chinese tour operators in March. How did that go?
We hosted a total of 70 Chinese operators in cooperation with our partners. They went to 15 different countries clustered in seven transnational itineraries, which included visits to landmark cities, cultural and natural attractions, meetings with local businesses as well as experiences in lesser-known destinations. We wanted to show them that there are many exciting destinations in Europe easily accessible from the traditional gateways for Chinese travellers. The FAM trips proved to be very successful with great feedback and satisfaction level from all participants. We intend to host another round of FAMs later in the year.
How else are you working to facilitate Chinese outbound tourism into Europe?
In addition to our cooperative marketing programmes, ETC, with the financial support of the EU, is co-investing in creative thematic transnational promotional campaigns developed and executed by partners of the EU-China Tourism Year. ETC is also co-organising the initiative “Partnerships in European Tourism”, an EU-funded project aimed at supporting EU tourism SMEs wishing to expand their businesses into the Chinese market.
At the same time, visa facilitation is very high on the agenda and we expect that the EU-China Tourism Year will provide an incentive to make further progress on visa facilitation and connectivity between both markets.
What activities has the ETC planned around ITB China this year?
We were partner destination of ITB China last year and ETC and our partners were very satisfied with our participation. This year, we again have a strong presence with a dedicated Europe pavilion hosting more than 30 European destinations and operators. We also expect to build up new contacts and exchange ideas on the Chinese travel market with the broad travel industry during these intense days in Shanghai. In this regard, we are having a dedicated session in ITB China Conference to discuss challenges and opportunities of the EU-China Tourism Year and beyond.