China-CEE tourism Centre opened in Budapest

At the first ever joint tourism summit organized by China and the Central and Eastern European countries, the Chinese-CEE Regional Coordination Center for Tourism was inaugurated in Budapest which is the first among the altogether six CEE regional centres. In November 2013, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and Chinese PM Li Keqiang decided to establish and operate a centre in Budapest and the founding of this has been accomplished with the participation of 16[1] countries within a very short period of time. The main objective of this partnership project is to present the Central and Eastern European region in a more efficient way, as a common destination, at the increasingly competitive Chinese tourism market.

At the inauguration of the China-CEE Regional Coordination Centre for Tourism, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and External Economic Relations Péter Szijjártó, the Ministerial Commissioner responsible for the coordination of Hungarian-Chinese bilateral relations, and Chairman of China’s National Tourism Administration (CNTA) Shao Qiwei delivered keynote speeches and after that they unveiled the centre’s memorial tablet.

Since the MoU was signed in February, the Ministry for National Economy and Hungarian Tourism Ltd had been busy preparing the ceremonial opening of the centre. Out of the sixteen CEE countries, fourteen attended the summit which fact signals the importance of the event and the commitment of the countries at issue.

The representatives of the national tourism boards and national tourism marketing bodies of CEE countries also participated at the two-day event. The Chinese delegation was headed by Chairman Shao Qiwei, who holds a ministerial position, and he was joined by the representatives of China’s three largest tourism companies.

On behalf of Hungary, the meeting on the first day of the event was hosted by Deputy State Secretary for Tourism Ms. Viktória Horváth Dr. and Mr. Gergely Horváth Deputy CEO for Tourism at Hungarian National Tourist Office. The high-profile event was organized by Hungarian Tourism Ltd.

In addition to the opening of the centre, the objective of the meeting was to lay down the framework of further partnership. The CEE countries are aiming to present the region as a common destination and thus enhance its visibility among Chinese tourists. These states have joined forces to develop common tour packages and to coordinate their marketing activities in order to diversify and broaden their programme offers and thus become more competitive and successful on the Chinese market.

International tourism organizations are expecting that outbound Chinese tourism traffic will increase dynamically over the coming years. In 2013, 59 million Chinese tourists made a trip abroad, of which 41 percent was outside of the North-Eastern Asia region. Among these, some 31 percent or 7.5 million people visited Europe. The share of the CEE region of total European arrivals was 33.5 percent, while the corresponding figure within international arrivals was 12.8 percent. These data imply the arrival of 2.5 million Chinese tourists in the region per year. By 2018, the region’s share of total arrivals is expected to increase to 13.7 percent (3.7 million guests). As the China Daily reported in a related article referring to Jiang Yiyi, Director of the China Tourism Academy’s International Tourism Development Institute, this year China is expected to be the source market of the largest number of international tourists, and within the next ten years Chinese tourists may constitute one-fifth of the world’s travellers while Chinese guests are already among the biggest spenders world-wide.

The majority of the 16 countries of the recently established alliance do not have an independent tourism representation in China, therefore it is in the best interest of all participants to utilize the opportunities provided by regional partnership. The number one priority is to unite funding as most partner countries have only insufficient fiscal allocations for country marketing. Acting together, the region stands a better of chance amidst the enormous advertisement campaigns bombarding China. It has also been identified as a goal that the CEE bloc shall present itself as a high-quality and reliable market participant on the strictly regulated Chinese tourism market.

The main instruments of a coordinated marketing policy are as follows:

–          formulating and promoting common tour packages (in the field of cultural heritage, gastronomy, healthcare and active tourism);

–          planning common thematic tours;

–          setting up and operating a common website;

–          common on-line and social media promotion;

–          organizing common study tours for Chinese tourism sector and press experts in the CEE region;

–          organizing common presentations at exhibitions (e.g.: CTM Shanghai);

–          organizing e-learning courses and webinars;

–          organizing tourism forums for member countries.

To this end, the efficient cooperation between the countries at issue is essential.

Through Hungarian Tourism Ltd, the regional centre will receive first-hand information about up-to-date tourism trends prevalent in Hungary, the CEE region and entire Europe which play a key role in formulating a proper strategy.

The Hungarian management of the centre aim to impartially represent – in each case and each project – the best interest of each of the 16 countries. The Chinese representative of Hungarian Tourism Ltd will ensure interaction with China’s National Tourism Administration on a daily basis, but the existence of this centre will in itself help turn the attention to the CEE region.

One of the short-term goals is to set up a joint tourism data base which covers each member country and includes the key stakeholders of the sector as well as tourism investment and development projects. In the long term, the regional centre is expected to become an institution trusted and respected by each participant that will provide efficient and practical assistance in any tourism-related issue. On the other hand, it is also very important to act as a mediator towards China and promote China and Chinese tourism products within the CEE as long-term, confidence-based tourism and business relations can only be established through the better understanding of one another.

Information on visiting Hungary as a Chinese tourist:

Hungary was awarded the Approved Destination Status by China in 2004. Compared to the initial number of Chinese visitors, a couple of hundreds, achieving higher figures was – naturally — not that difficult. However, it is an obvious result that following Japanese tourists Chinese people constitute the second largest group of Asian visitors. In 2013, Chinese guests spent some 140 thousand tourism nights at Hungarian accommodation establishments, up by 9 percent compared to the previous year. Currently, China ranks as 23rd on the list of Hungary’s source markets.

[1] Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia.