Add New Colors to the Garden of World Civilizations and Usher in a New Future of Global Tourism Together— Insights on China-CEEC Tourism Exchanges and Cooperation

2023-05-19 10:50:43       Size:[L  M  S]

Add New Colors to the Garden of World Civilizations and Usher in a New Future of Global Tourism Together

— Insights on China-CEEC Tourism Exchanges and Cooperation

Dai Bin, President of China Tourism Academy

Ningbo, May 17, 2023

Ladies and Gentlemen,

    This year's five-day Labor Day holiday marked a turning point in the post-COVID era for China's domestic tourism market. Both inbound and outbound tourism sustained the momentum of recovery that started from the Spring Festival. During the five days of the Labor Day holiday, 274 million domestic tourist trips were made nationwide, up 70.83% year-on-year, recovering to 119.09% of the pre-pandemic level on comparable terms. Domestic tourism revenue totaled 148.056 billion yuan, up 128.90% year-on-year, recovering to 100.66% of the pre-pandemic level on comparable terms. According to the data of the National Immigration Administration, a total of 6.265 million people passed the border control authorities nationwide (both entry and exit), with a daily average of 1.253 million people, an increase of about 2.2 times compared to last year's Labor Day holiday, and 59.2% of the data of the Labor Day holiday in 2019. In addition to these macro statistics, a short video on the Internet evoked much nostalgia among the Chinese people. On a tourist bus in Serbia, dozens of Chinese tourists were singing the theme song of the former Yugoslavian film "The Bridge", "That morning, waking up from a dream / invaders broke into my hometown ....... Ah, friend goodbye, goodbye, goodbye / Whenever people walk past here, they say / Ah! What a beautiful flower". It was a highly emotional moment that brought back many sweet memories, and the local driver was so deeply touched that tears welled up in his eyes.

    These movies, songs, literature and art have influenced generations of Chinese people, and brought China and Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries closer at heart. As long as conditions allow, every one in China would like to pay a visit to CEE countries, to see the city of Sarajevo that “Walter” defended, wander around in the Schönbrunn Palace that housed Empress Sisi, and walk in the town of Cesky Krumlov and the Prague Castle. Today, Chinese tourists have left their footprints in every corner of the world. They are traveling across Asia, Europe, America, Africa and even the North and South Poles. CEE countries were the fastest growing and most promising overseas destinations for Chinese outbound travelers in the decade before the pandemic.

Table 1: Mutual tourist visits between China and CEE countries, 2010-2019


Number of travelers from CEE countries to China (10,000 person-times)

Number of Chinese travelers who choose CEE countries as the first stop of their overseas trip (10,000 person-times)































Average annual growth



*Source: China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

As Chinese tourists expand their travel experience, more and more natural, historical and cultural resources have entered the product brochures of travel agencies and the bucket lists of self-guided travelers. The Archabbey of Pannonhalma in Hungary, the Prague Castle in The Czech Republic, the Marie Curie Museum in Poland, the Church of St. Elisabeth in Slovakia, and the Old City of Dubrovnik in Croatia, to name a few, are all highly popular and reputable among young Chinese tourists. They are so familiar with the Croatian footballer Modric and the "Checkers", the bohemian art and food, and the hot springs in Hungary as if they are talking about popular Chinese entertainment programs like Sisters Who Brave Winds and Waves and the Strawberry Music Festival, as well local Chinese cuisines like the seafood in Ningbo and the yellow fish noodles in Yuyao. With the expansion of our two-way trade, investment and cultural exchanges, Chinese people will include into their travel plans each and every CEE country that they come across in TV programs, films and online reviews. Judging from recent internet searches, tourist postings and reviews, the niche destinations in CEE countries have the potential to grow into a big tourism market.

Table 2: Mutual tourist visits between China and CEE countries in 2019


Number of travelers from CEE countries to China (10,000 person-times)

Number of Chinese travelers who choose CEE countries as the first stop of their overseas trip (10,000 person-times)




Bosnia and Herzegovina









The Czech Republic












The Republic of North Macedonia


















*Source: China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

Tourism is a vehicle to enjoy an alien way of life. What attracts tourists is not only the beautiful scenery, but also the exciting moments of life. Looking back at the past twenty years that saw rapid growth of China’s outbound tourism, we can find it has gone through multiple stages, from the packaged tours of "10 countries in 8 days", to organized tours of tourist shoppers and to individual tours centered on tourist experience. Now, it is entering a new stage characterized by a mixture of personalized and diversified tours where tourists make decisions for their own itinerary and focus their travel on life experience. The unique natural scenery, history and culture, local customs and special cuisines of CEE countries provide Chinese tourists with a wide range of personalized choices. Our stable and positive bilateral relations, efficient tourism promotion and high-quality professional services are also positive factors driving tourism exchanges between the two sides. As a result, Chinese tourists' satisfaction with CEE countries is at a relatively high level among the 102 key sample countries.

Table 3: Satisfaction rating and ranking of selected CEE countries among Chinese outbound travelers in 2019



2019 Rating



The Czech Republic
































Bosnia and Herzegovina







*Source: China Tourism Academy (Data Center of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

In recent years, tourists from CEE countries to China, especially those related to trade, investment, education, science and technology and cultural exchanges, have also grown steadily. Since 2012, China's trade with CEE countries has grown at an average annual rate of 8.1%, and China's imports from CEE countries have grown at an average annual rate of 9.2%. Currently, the scale of two-way investment between China and CEE countries is close to USD 20 billion. The China-Europe Railway Express is booming, providing a total of 16,000 freight services in 2022, up 9% year-on-year. The construction of the China-Europe Land and Sea Express is also being actively advanced. Just this week, the Ningbo-Budapest passenger flight service, operated by China Eastern Airlines, is officially launched, laying a more favorable foundation for the expansion and quality upgrade of our tourism market.

We have noted that tourist attractions, gastronomy, shopping, spas, accommodation and the quality life they represent are the main factors affecting the travel and shopping decisions of Chinese tourists, while agriculture, logistics, trade and investment are the new drivers bringing tourists from CEE countries to China. At the same time, we have also noted that museums, art galleries, theaters, intangible cultural heritage, ethnic culture and folk customs, as well as the distinct culture of different regions, continue to shape the fundamental conditions and underlying logic of international exchanges. The Chinese people have long held the tradition of traveling, especially traveling to overseas destinations. The inter-civilization exchange enabled by these travels brings not only visible growth in consumption and employment, but also invisible improvement in people’s living standards and competence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On May 5, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 no longer constitutes a "public health emergency of international concern", which marks a critical step toward the end of the global pandemic and the return to prosperity for world tourism. According to the latest World Tourism Barometer released by the UNWTO, 235 million tourist trips were recorded worldwide in the first quarter of this year. Global tourism has recovered to 80% of its pre-pandemic level, and Europe has even recovered 90% of the ground lost due to the pandemic. While the market is gradually recovering, world tourism continues to face new challenges.

— The global tourism supply chain needs to be repaired at a faster pace. The supply of tourism resources such as airlines, high-speed trains, hotels, restaurants, shopping, and light transportation still cannot keep up with the pace of recovery of the tourism market, and the lack of supply and uneven development pushes up the costs of cross-border travel. The absorption of new entrants to the labor market and skill upgrade of the existing workforce, especially the return of experienced workers and training of new workers, is a realistic issue that needs to be addressed. All countries need to move faster to develop a human resources system adaptable to these new demands, a business model tailored to new market conditions, and a governance system underpinned by cross-border cooperation.

— Travel agencies, tour guides, restaurants, cafes, duty-free stores, trains, cabs and other institutions that directly serve tourists have not fully adapted to the new demands of international tourists in terms of digitization and affinity for language, payment and communication. Chambers of commerce and industry associations in the investment, trade and service sectors also need to speed up innovation in the following areas: developing a standardized multilingual signage guidance system for high-frequency tourism scenes and related guide devices; improving the financial settlement, tax refund and mobile payment environment for overseas tourists before, during and after their trips and making electronic payment and foreign currency exchange more convenient; and providing easier access for tourists to the mobile networks and social media at destinations.

— The visa, immigration, border port, finance, commerce and tax authorities of various countries must adopt more open policies to meet the new demands of cross-border travelers for the convenience, efficiency and quality of services. Encouraging government departments, public institutions and the general public to pay more attention to tourism, promoting the harmonization and implementation of policies involving the movement of people, cross-border shopping and tourism market players, establishing inter-governmental tourism working mechanisms, coordinating the national tourism agendas and strategic objectives, and creating a more friendly business environment and policy system for high-quality tourism development are all practical issues to be addressed by national governments.

— Wars, terrorist attacks, public health incidents, as well as international relations and domestic policies, such as the exit tax imposed by some countries and differential policies for tourists from different countries and regions, have all affected the recovery and sustainable development of world tourism to varying degrees. How to ensure people’s right to tourism through the modernization of the global tourism governance system and capacity is also a subject to be studied by the global tourism industry. To this end, the culture and tourism, foreign affairs, immigration and police authorities should increase their policy reserves, strengthen cross-sectoral communication and cross-border cooperation, and create more bilateral exchange mechanisms and multilateral dialogue platforms to protect the life and property of international tourists, and provide timely and effective judicial and administrative remedies for tourists in the areas of health protection, tourist rescue and service complaints.

The development of global tourism is never a smooth sail, but it is always heading in a forward direction. Safeguarding people's right to travel and promoting all-round human development should be the common value and fundamental guideline for global tourism development. Government departments of China and CEE countries and countries all around the world, especially cultural and tourism departments and the tourism industry, should move in the same direction and undertake common but differentiated responsibilities to make travel more freely for humanity on this blue planet.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

On March 15, 2023, President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech entitled "Join Hands on the Path Towards Modernization" at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting. In the speech, President Xi proposed the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), which charted the course and drew up the future blueprint for people-to-people exchanges and tourism development between China and CEE countries and the wider world.

Both the travelers and the tourism industry must respect the diversity of world civilizations. During their travels, tourists must communicate and interact more with local residents and employees of local companies, and endeavor to maintain equal dialogue, mutual respect and mutual accommodation. Whether it is cross-border delivery, personnel interflow, or commercial presence, people working in the tourism industry should always follow the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, collaborative innovation and shared benefits. They should bridge the civilizational divide through mutual interactions, prevent civilizational conflict through mutual learning, and replace the mindset of civilizational superiority with mutual accommodation.

Both the travelers and the tourism industry must embrace and advocate the common values of all mankind. Tourists have the right to share the world's natural and cultural heritage and experience different cultures and a better life, while local residents also have the right to pursue economic and social modernization. For most of the time, these two goals are compatible, but they may also diverge in specific time and space. In order to ensure the sustainable development of the world tourism industry, we need to to appreciate the distinctive values of different civilizations, and recognize that peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom are the common values for all peoples.

Both the travelers and the tourism industry must promote the creative transformation and innovative development of the fine traditional cultures of countries in the course of modernization. Cultural heritage is a road marker in the evolution of civilization, a fundamental resource for tourism development, and a key attraction for tourists. The arrival of tourists encourages the local people to cherish their traditional culture even more, while tourism investment and market innovation breathes new life into countries’ fine traditional culture. According to the World Bank, the main destinations for international tourists are still mostly in the 80 high-income economies, while the share of international tourist arrivals for the 130-plus low- and middle-income economies was only 27% in 1995 and 36.6% in 2019. Bringing more tourists from developed countries and regions to the developing world, and promoting deeper integration of culture and tourism in developing countries and regions should be a priority goal for the world tourism community.

Both the travelers and the tourism industry must contribute to the mutual understanding and affinity between all peoples, and jointly promote the development and progress of human civilization. We should explore innovative forms of bilateral and multilateral mechanisms for international tourism cooperation, enrich existing cooperation mechanisms including the China-CEEC Expo, organization of Tourism Year activities and the Asia Tourism Promotion Program, and exchange market data and industry information in a timely manner. We should also encourage the governments of all countries to adopt more convenient and efficient tourism policies, and, instead of seeking to maintain a surplus in trade in services with any country at any time, focus on the more important goals of tourism safety and quality.

    Tourism is a basic right of the people and a permanent way of human life. People's aspiration for a better tourism life is our goal. Tourism can bring more consumption, investment and jobs to destinations; it can also promote cultural exchanges and equal dialogue among different regions, civilizations and peoples. There are a lot more that tourism can do to promote the prosperity of world civilizations and foster a community with a shared future for mankind. In that spirit, let us unite our efforts to create a new world of more civilized, safer and better tourism together!

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