By Dong Yan
Across the region, diplomats and members of the business community see a bright future for China-ASEAN tourism and cultural exchange.
Chinese Flavor in ASEAN Tourism
Two-way personnel exchanges between the two sides increased from 3.87 million in 2003 to 31 million in 2016. China has become ASEAN’s largest source of overseas tourists.
Among China’s top 15 sources of overseas tourists, six are ASEAN countries. In the summer and autumn seasons of 2016, more than 2,700 flights traveled between China and ASEAN countries every week, and the figure is expected to reach 5,000 this year.
“Tourism helps ASEAN and China understand the culture of one another,” said ASEAN Deputy Secretary-General Mochtan.
“Additionally, tourists can gain a better understanding of biodiversity on their journeys and become more aware of the need for environmental protection.”
The year 2017 marks the ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation. The two sides will further their tourism cooperation to achieve the goal of 30 million two-way visitors by 2020.
As the rotating chair of ASEAN this year, the Philippines has become increasingly attractive to Chinese tourists. In 2016, China surpassed Japan to become the third largest source of overseas tourists to the Philippines. A total of 680,000 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, a year-on-year increase of 37.7 percent. It takes only two-to-four hours to fly from Shanghai or Guangzhou to Philippine holiday destinations such as Boracay, Marlay or Cebu.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said that with the development of relations between the two countries, more direct flights will soon become available. In 2017, 1 million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the Philippines.
The Philippines is home to a large number of overseas Chinese, particularly in Laoag. On the screening machines at the airport, bilingual labels note that much of the equipment used there was donated by the Consulate of the People’s Republic of China in Laoag. The Seaview Holiday Inn Laoag, the largest holiday resort in the city, is managed by a Chinese enterprise. The resort is a fusion of Spanish, Philippine and Chinese elements. Services in Chinese are available from the front desk to the dining rooms.
As one of the most popular ASEAN tourist destinations, Indonesia hosted 1.453 million Chinese tourists in 2016. Getting married in Bali, watching sunrise in Borobudur and diving in Manado are no longer the conversation topics of a privileged few in China. More and more Chinese holiday makers are choosing such places as their travel destinations. An increasing number of signs in Chinese can be spotted across Indonesia, aiding Chinese tourists.
According to Sun Weide, Charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Indonesia, the Indonesian government has taken many initiatives to attract Chinese tourists to Indonesia in recent years. Since a visa waiver for Chinese tourists was implemented in June 2015, Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry has introduced a number of other measures, including opening direct flights from major Chinese cities to Jakarta, Bali and Manado and cooperating with Baidu, Wanda and other Chinese companies in tourism promotion and infrastructure upgrading. Also being improved are various services in Chinese, including road signs, telephone hotlines and tour guides. Stronger protection for the rights and interests of Chinese tourists is also being promoted.