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ETC’s China Conference ponders pathways to growth of Sino-European collaboration in tourism

The unique event took the guests to the heart of the diverse European cuisine while reflecting the challenges and opportunities of Destination Europe in China.

BEIJING – ”A Taste of Europe” Conference 2013, a joint initiative of the European Travel Commission (ETC) and the European Commission (EC) with the cooperation of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), was successfully held on 21st October 2013 in Beijing (China).

This is one of the three long-haul third market events organized by ETC in the framework of the “Destination Europe 2020” initiative funded by ETC and EC for sustaining Europe’s position as the world’s number one tourist destination. Nearly 200 delegates representing Chinese and European tour operators, travel agencies, national tourism organisations, airlines, travel bloggers and media attended the event.

“We want to highlight the great importance that China has for Europe. The European public and private sectors are committed to work together with the Chinese tourism industry to develop products that meet the real expectations of Chinese travellers”, addressed Eduardo Santander, Executive Director of ETC.

Pedro Ortun, Director for Service Industries in the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry in the European Commission, particularly highlighted the importance of the Chinese market for the European tourism industry, as “not only the origin of growing number of visitors of EU destinations, but also a potential cooperation partner in international tourism development actions, for the benefit of both the EU tourism industry and the Chinese economy”. He emphasized the best intention of the European Commission to further strengthen its ties with the Chinese authorities and operators and improve collaboration in the area of tourism policy actions between China and the EU.

The full-day conference included three sessions: a Think Tank Table, in the morning, followed by a panel discussion and the Taste of Europe Exhibition, in the afternoon.

The Think Tank Table was kicked off by the keynote speech from Neli Nanova, Chair of the ETC’s Operations Group in China, who emphasized the objectives of the event, “There are big opportunities coming up for China and Europe, but at the same time our lack of knowledge about each other’s needs is slowing the development of our tourism industries. A better understanding of the profile and specific needs of Chinese travellers together with a critical review of legal and cultural barriers to travel will support European destinations to tap into the enormous potential of the Chinese outbound travel market effectively.” Topics covering Sino-European collaboration in tourism, perceptions of Destination Europe in China, travel barriers for Chinese visitors in Europe, opportunities and challenges for European destinations, Chinese tour operators’ expectations, the development of MICE tourism in China and travel packages to Europe, the use of social media in China and the future of tourism promotion and communication have been discussed by the invited experts and delegates from all involved stakeholder groups.

The afternoon was dedicated to several keynote speeches, including Tom Jenkins, Executive Director of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) and Robert Vertes, Tourism Attache at the Embassy of Hungary in Beijing; followed by an interesting Panel Discussion with the participation of representatives of Chinese and European airlines, tour operators, NTO’s and local media. ETC’s project for next year for awarding the best European travel package performed by a Chinese tour operator was introduced as well during the panel discussion.

The event ended with an exciting food tasting session, where all the guests could try the most authentic cuisine and drinks from all over the Europe. More remarkable surprisingly, the renowned Spanish Chef Firo Vazquez gave an on-site demonstration on innovative products of the European cuisine showcasing new pan-European travel products to the growing number of experience-centred Chinese visitors.