ROME – China and Italy should work together to expand bidirectional flow of tourists amid the current difficulties arising from the financial crisis and global spread of A/H1N1 flu (also called swine flu), a top Chinese tourism official said on Sunday.
“The financial crisis and the swine flu have had a very serious impact on world tourism, and there is no exception for China and Italy, but the two leading tourist countries can make a concerted effort to fend off difficulties,” Shao Qiwei, who was accompanying Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit Italy, said.
Heading a tourism promotion delegation to Italy, Shao said China and Italy could use the opportunity of next year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and is also the Chinese Culture Year in Italy, to strengthen cooperation in the field of tourism.
During his visit, Shao was due to sign a memorandum of understanding on tourism cooperation with his Italian counterpart, which is designed to facilitate visits by tourists from both sides.
He would also attend the opening ceremony of a Chinese tourism office in Rome, while Italy has planned to do the same in Beijing.
“The memorandum will open a new page for the tourism cooperation between China and Italy. One of the most important aims is to guarantee mutual flow of tourists,” he said, “Chinese tourists will come to Italy and we also welcome Italian and other European tourists to China. It is bidirectional.”
Shao said all these moves showed that the Chinese government stands for an open market for tourism despite the current difficulties and hopes others would not slide into protectionism.
“We want to keep tourist flow with major source countries or areas. We need support each other to get over the crisis,” he said.
Europe is currently a major source of foreign tourists for China. Among those European countries, Italy is a fast developing market.
There are almost 200 thousand trips paid by Italian tourists to China last year, and nearly an equal number of Chinese tourists had their first stop of European tours in Italy.
Despite the overall slump of world tourism, visits paid by Chinese tourists to Italy still increased by 20 percent in the first five months of this year.
“This reflects the fact that Chinese people are getting rich and China is becoming more open. It is predictable that more and more Chinese people will spend on foreign tours,” Shao said.
Shao said there is a huge potential for the tourism cooperation between China and Italy since both countries are rich in culture and history.
“For Chinese tourists, Italy is an attractive place, while for Italian tourists, China is relatively new and full of surprise. I am confident that tourism between the two countries will expand year by year,” he said.