SHANGHAI — Chinese and foreign entities confirmed a number of high-profile deals in the culture and tourism fields at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai this week, as the Chinese government looks to boost the country’s inbound tourism market.
More than 30 million foreign tourists traveled to China in 2018, up 5% compared to the previous year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. But the volume of inbound tourists is still dwarfed by the number of Chinese citizens vacationing abroad, which reached nearly 150 million last year.
Shanghai announced several projects designed to attract more visitors during the CIIE, including an agreement to open a Legoland theme park in 2023. The city also confirmed plans to cooperate with the organizers of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a British car show, to hold an auto festival in Songjiang District in October 2020.
Chinese fintech leader Ant Financial, meanwhile, announced it will allow foreign citizens to link overseas bank cards to the company’s digital payments app, Alipay, in a bid to bring more convenience to incoming tourists.
At the expo’s International Cooperation Forum on Culture and Tourism Consumption, tourism industry practitioners from 11 countries including Denmark, Japan, and the United Kingdom shared their experiences building culture and tourism brands and discussed how similar projects could be developed in China.
Fram Kitagawa, art director for several rural arts festivals in Japan including the renowned Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, said that Chinese tourism firms should focus on showcasing the country’s vibrant local culture, rather than organizing routine tours of cultural sites and scenic spots.
“We’re not trying to bring something here from Japan,” Kitagawa told Sixth Tone. “It’s just to tell our friends in China that there is precious culture everywhere — some of the culture we take for granted can be explored and presented through modern art. We just want to bring this kind of thinking and approach.”
Kitagawa agreed a deal at last year’s CIIE to hold an event modeled on the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale — which attracts 500,000 visitors to rural destinations across Japan — in Tonglu County in the eastern Zhejiang province. The inaugural event, provisionally titled the China Fuchunjiang Art Field, is set to be held in late 2020.
Sun Qian, founder of the Beijing-based firm Hubart, which is organizing the event in Tonglu in partnership with Kitagawa, agreed that Chinese villages and towns need to embrace a more modern approach to tourism to attract overseas travellers.
“To explore and present our local value through international artists can attract global visitors,” said Sun.
Conference attendees also discussed a range of other methods to boost the number of people visiting China, including improving cities’ nightlife and creating winter sports activities to coincide with the 2020 Winter Olympics.
In October, Chinese online travel firm Trip.com, which rebranded from Ctrip as part of a move to focus more on the global market, estimated that China’s inbound tourism market had the potential to grow by more than $100 billion if it can become more competitive. This followed the Chinese government’s publication of a set of proposals for improving inbound tourism in August, in which it encouraged local authorities to develop new tourism routes, performances, and local products to attract visitors.
(Header image: A view of a village in Tonglu County, Zhejiang province, March 2019. Fu Danni/Sixth Tone)