ZAGREB, September 17, 2018 – Croatia and China seek to expand their cooperation in the tourist industry, which will require direct flights between the two countries, services tailored to Chinese tourists’ needs and simplified visa procedures, Croatian Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli and Chinese Ambassador Zhaoming Hu said ahead of a tourist conference in Dubrovnik.
The conference will be held from 18 to 20 September and will bring together about 100 participants, including tourism ministers and other officials from most of the 16 Central and Eastern European countries included in the China + 16 platform, as well as representatives of the Chinese tourist industry headed by Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.
The China + 16 platform was launched in Budapest in 2011 with the aim of boosting cooperation between 16 Central and Eastern European countries and China in tourism, energy, industry, infrastructure and transport. The countries included in this initiative are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Speaking in an interview with Hina, Cappelli stressed the importance of the conference to further promote cooperation between the Croatian tourist industry and China, the world’s largest source market for tourism, where Croatia received awards this year as the best new destination for Chinese tourists. He said that the Dubrovnik conference would be the fourth meeting of tourism ministers, state secretaries and assistants from the countries included in the China + 16 platform. Since 2018 is the China-EU tourism year, the conference will put Croatia at the centre of attention, he added.
“We expect a lot from the conference and I believe it will help in planning the future cooperation of all those involved, to whom we will present all the beauties, potential and activities of Croatian tourism, which is a great opportunity for us. We expect that the conference will get these countries closer together through cooperation in tourism projects and in other economic sectors through the European ‘Three Seas’ initiative and China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative,” Cappelli said.
Apart from bilateral meetings, the conference will also feature B2B workshops involving local and Chinese entrepreneurs. Cappelli said that the Chinese were most interested in public-private cooperation and health tourism, adding that health tourism was one of the fastest growing segments in Croatia, with a potential of over a billion euro in annual turnover.
He revealed that the Chinese themselves had insisted on Dubrovnik as the venue of the conference and that the Croatian prime minister had also played a part by lobbying at the 6th meeting of the heads of government of the China + 16 initiative in Budapest last year that the 4th high-level conference of tourism ministers be held in Croatia.
Noting that Croatia and China have cherished their diplomatic ties and friendship for 26 years, Cappelli said that in order to increase the tourist trade between the two countries it was necessary to introduce new, direct flights, especially outside the summer season. He said he hoped the opening of the Croatian Tourist Board’s office in Shanghai would contribute to this.
With the growing interest of Chinese tourists in Croatia and additional advertising, Cappelli believes that China could become one of the most important source markets for Croatia. He said that over 160,000 Chinese tourists had visited Croatia in 2017, which was 60 percent more than in 2016, while in the first eight months of this year their number had increased by almost 40 percent. “The results will be even better by the end of the year because it is well known that the Chinese come to visit us in large numbers outside the summer season. They are more interested in natural wonders and cultural heritage than in the sun and the sea,” the minister said.
Cappelli recalled that this year, as part of cooperation between the Croatian Ministry of the Interior and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, six Chinese police officers had been deployed in Croatia for a month to assist Chinese tourists during their stay in Croatia. He said that the plan was for them to stay for two months next year.
In an interview with Hina, Chinese Ambassador to Croatia Zhaoming Hu said China attached great importance to the conference in Dubrovnik, adding that Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang would on that occasion send a letter of congratulations and the Chinese delegation to the conference would be led by Culture and Tourism Minister Luo Shugang.
The platform China +16 has over the past five years made significant achievements and has been efficiently promoting the development of relations between China and Central and Eastern European countries and between China and the EU, the ambassador said.
He stressed he was confident the conference would contribute to further strengthening tourism cooperation between China and all countries from the platform, recalling the strength of the Chinese market. The ambassador also underlined that since 2012 China had been the world’s biggest source market for tourism.
Zhaoming backed his claims with figures showing that more than 130 million Chinese tourists had travelled abroad in 2017, spending a total of 115.3 billion euro.
The number of Chinese tourists in Croatia is growing steadily and with all the initiatives that have already been launched we believe that their number will continue to grow, the ambassador said. He added that the Chinese government encouraged Chinese companies to take part in building tourism infrastructure in Croatia and cooperate with Croatian partners in hotel business, tourism services, environmental protection, etc. We hope that this conference too will encourage the two sides to boost cooperation in health tourism, mobile payment and help ease the visa regime, he said.
Zhaoming said the Dubrovnik conference would be attended by entrepreneurs from about a dozen of the most influential tourism companies in China with a sincere desire to establish cooperation with their Croatian colleagues. This cooperation includes the launching of direct flights between the two countries, he added.
The ambassador emphasised that the current visa regime was the main obstacle to more Chinese tourists travelling to Croatia, adding that although both countries were investing a lot of effort, the visa issuing procedure for Chinese tourists remained lengthy and too complex. The Chinese ambassador expressed hope these problems would be resolved in the near future.