EU–China Tourism Year Parliamentary Day/ EU – China Tourism & Culture Cooperation Platform

Brussels (Belgium)
President Tajani,
It is an honour to be with you today.
Congratulations on the excellent tourism results in the EU.
Your support at the highest political level is a huge boost for our sector.
Ambassador Qu Xing,
Thank you for representing China in the European tourism community.
China is a major player on the global tourism stage and we all have much to learn from you.
Commissioner Bienkowska,
Thank you for all of your work to prioritise tourism in the work of the Commission. 
Commissioner Navracsics,
We look forward to celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage with you this year.
Thank you for your efforts to bridge tourism and culture.
Mr. Istvan Ujhelyi (we-hay), Vice-chair of the TRAN Committee,
It is very inspiring to see the EU and China working together in the fields of tourism and culture.
Thank you for your leadership in spearheading this initiative.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In 2017, international tourist arrivals in EU destinations reached 538 million.
The largest non-EU market to contribute to this figure was China, number one source market in the world.
According to the European Travel Commission, 12.4 million Chinese came to Europe in 2017.
These numbers tell us that the impact of Chinese tourists on EU tourism is huge.
More important is the impact this tourism has on the lives of millions in Europe and in China.
This year comes as an opportunity to make Europe the best global destination for Chinese tourists.
And to use tourism to increase understanding and trust between Europeans and Chinese people.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With 200 million Chinese travelling abroad every year, China will continue to grow immensely as a source market.
With this in mind, I have a few ideas for areas that the EU and China can work to advance in this special year:
1. Improving travel facilitation and connectivity
The Schengen visa is a pillar of tourism competiveness for the EU as it enables safe and seamless travel.
I am pleased that many European countries are trying to speed up visa approvals for Chinese travellers.
The EU and its nations can complement this by adopting policies and measures aimed at travel facilitation.
For example, mobile fingerprinting biometric services at airports, or accepting the use of Chinese driving licenses in Europe.
Better policies for good airline and ground transport connectivity are also crucial.
2. Promoting Europe in China
DMOs can use new technologies to establish a firm online presence in China’s popular internet sites and social media networks.
For example, Wechat is a very popular social network with Chinese tourists and it is also a mobile payment channel.
Wechat and similar platforms provide huge opportunities for digital marketing to the modern, connected traveller.
On the ground, for European businesses working in tourism and related sectors in China, more Mandarin-speaking staff could help.
And we must promote Europe, not just European countries, because Chinese tourists usually choose which continent to visit, not which country.
3. Coordinating tourism policies with culture policies
Tourism and culture are powerful tools to strengthen the relationships between China and the EU.
As this year is also a celebration of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, it is a perfect time to promote the rich European culture and the role of tourism in protecting it.
There are many shared aspects of cultural heritage between China and EU countries that can be used to increase mutual understanding.
I am delighted that today the EU-China Tourism & Culture Cooperation Platform launches to make best use of the synergies between the EU-China Year and the Year of Cultural Heritage.
Ladies and gentlemen,
UNWTO is committed to working with the TRAN Committee and partners towards these goals.
Throughout this year we hope to continue our important work with you to shape a sustainable and competitive future for tourism in these two great tourism powers of Europe and China.
The EU-China Tourism Year is an extremely important initiative, and I am very pleased to celebrate it with you today and throughout the year.
Thank you. Xie xie.