Ctrip has announced a strategic partnership with Sicily that promises to bring a bigger share of the world’s largest outbound tourism market to the Mediterranean island.
Tourism is a vital aspect of Italy-China bilateral co-operation. Italy is already one of the most popular destinations in Europe for Chinese visitors and continues to attract more visitors every year. In first half of 2019, according to Ctrip data, hotel reservations in Italy experienced a year-on-year growth of 200%, making Italy the top destination for Chinese tourists in Europe.
In the presence of Michele Geraci, Undersecretary of State for International Trade and Investment Attraction at the Ministry of Economic Development, Ctrip Chief Marketing Officer Bo Sun, the Region of Sicily, represented by Gaetano Armao, Regional Councilor for Economy and Vice-President of the Region of Sicily, and Lucia Di Fatta, General Director of the Regional Department of Tourism, Sport and Entertainment, on behalf of Councillor Manlio Messina, exchanged letters of mutual appreciation and support for a strategic partnership between Ctrip and the local industry, represented by Alessandro Albanese, President of Sicindustria and Francesco Picarella, President of Confcommercio Sicilia.
In 1787, The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said, “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything”. Sicily is adored by Italian and foreign visitors alike, but has to date been relatively obscure on Chinese itineraries. According to statistics from the Region of Sicily, 26,418 Chinese tourists visited the island in 2018, an increase of 25% compared to 2017. The numbers recorded are still a very modest percentage of the total 3 million Chinese arrivals in Italy.
As the 2020 Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism approaches, Ctrip and Sicily have formalised a partnership to help the island to tap the potential to attract more Chinese visitors as part of an effort to develop trade and people-to-people exchange between China and Italian regions.
With over 300 million users in China, Ctrip has pledged to allocate its online platforms and media connections to promote Sicilian tourism destinations and unique local experiences to the Chinese high-end outbound tourism market, from seaside resorts and medical spas, to food and wine tours; art and history itineraries, such as the Segesta and Selinunte archaeological parks and the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento; natural tracks such as skiing on Etna Volcano and diving in Ustica; and, even local events, including the Taormina film festival and the Carnival of Acireale.
Against the backdrop of the recent visit by President Xi Jinping to Palermo on 23rd March 2019, today’s strategic partnership lays strong foundations to tap the potential of Sicily as a promising tourism destination for the Chinese market.
An increase in the number of high-end Chinese tourists coming to the island promises to bring important benefits for the local economy. According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of tourism to the economy in 2017 was 223.2 billion euros, equivalent to 13% of GDP, a number which is three percentage points higher than the European and world average. Over 3.4 million jobs, or 14.7% of the country’s total employment were directly and indirectly generated by tourism in 2017. Chinese tourists are known to be among the highest spending international travellers, with an average daily consumption of €930, and up €1600 for the wealthiest Chinese tourists, and stand to bring significant stimulus to local businesses.
“We are very excited about this co-operation with Sicily and look forward to working more closely across the board with the Italian tourism industry. Italy is already one of the most popular destinations for the growing Chinese outbound tourism market. In 2017, Chinese tourists contributed USD 258 billion to the global economy, and in 2018, 150 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas. From restaurants to local artisans, all areas of the local Sicilian economy will gain from being a part of this massive trend. As the 2020 Year of Tourism and Culture between China and Italy fast approaches, there are vast opportunities for imaginative destination marketing solutions, we can’t wait to bring more Chinese tourists to Sicily and experience all that this beautiful region has to offer.” said Bo Sun, Chief Marketing Officer of Ctrip.
“The signing of these agreements between Ctrip, Sicindustria and Confcommercio Sicilia in the tourism sector”, declared Undersecretary of State Michele Geraci, “represents a visible result of the thriving China-Italy relationship. Sicily is preparing to receive in the coming years a growing flow of Chinese tourists, which will be a small but important driver for the industry of Sicily and the South of Italy. Last year saw a significant increase in the number of foreign tourists: Sicily went from 3.7 million foreign visitors in 2017 to 4.5 million in 2018 (+ 21.9%), that is the largest share in the entire South of Italy. With reference to the expenditure of foreign tourists, there is a growing trend between 2017 and 2018, both in Sicily (+ 12.7%) and generally in the South of Italy (+ 8.8%), in any case higher than the growth recorded in the Center-North (+ 6.1%). In addition to tourism, we are also promoting our agri-food and industrial sectors, synergetic sectors with tourism as often emphasized by Minister Centinaio, with a particular eye to both small and medium enterprises, which I want to emphasize, represent over 99% of the Italian entrepreneurial system, and more important production sites. The objective is to promote investments which can create jobs in the South of Italy and, thanks to this agreement, in Sicily in particular.”
Photo – top of page: From top to bottom, from left to right: Bo Sun (Ctrip), Michele Geraci (MISE), Gaetano Armao, (Regional Department of Economy), Lucia di Fatta, (Regional Department of Tourism), Leah Wang (Ctrip), Alessandro Albanese (Sicindustria), Francesco Picarella (Confcommercio Sicily), Giuseppe Cassarà (Federturismo Sicily)