The choice of Venice by the Commission to kick-off the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY) was certainly not fortuitous. Venice was at European end of the 2000-year-old Silk Road, where merchants used to travel between China and Europe trading silk, porcelain and spices. It was also from Venice that Marco Polo initiated his travels to Asia 700 years ago.
Numerous Chinese and European officials gathered for the occasion together with a solid representation of business leaders and relevant organizations in the Doge’s Palace and the Venice Casino to exchange ideas on how to improve the experience of travelers from China to Europe and vice-versa.
In her opening speech, Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, European Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, listed forthcoming events planned under the 2018 EU-China Tourism year, such as: ‘the Joint Promotion Platform’, ‘the EU-China Light Bridge’, and ‘eight B2B matchmaking events in the EU and China’. The objective of these, said Ms Bieńkowska, are “an increase of 10% of Chinese visitors above the current trend and for this to be sustained year on year. This would mean at least €1 billion a year for the EU economy.”
欧盟内部市场、工业、创业和中小企业总司司长Elżbieta Bieńkowska女士在开幕致辞中列举了在2018年中欧旅游年框架下即将开展的活动，如“联合推广平台”，“欧洲 – 中国灯桥“，以及”八场欧盟和中国B2B对接活动“等。 Bieńkowska女士说，这些活动旨在 “推动中国游客数量实现10％的增长，并且将这一势头持续下去。 这意味着一年时间可以为欧盟经济至少贡献10亿欧元。“
European Commissioner Ms. Elżbieta Bieńkowska speaking at the official opening of the EU-China Tourism Year
Ms. Bieńkowska was echoed by Mr. Qi Xuchun, Vice-Chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, who represented the Chinese government at the event, quoting President Xi Jinping: “Tourism is an important channel of communication and exchange among countries and cultures; it is an effective means to develop the economy and increase employment, and an important industry to improve people’s livelihood.”
Next to being a source of personal culture enrichment, tourism is indeed a major economic driver. The European Parliament Research Service estimates that the tourism industry can generate more than 10% of EU GDP and approximately 12% of all jobs. Moreover, Chinese travelers have recently surpassed US tourists positioning themselves as the biggest spenders among extra-European tourists.
除了提供丰富的个人文化体验之外，旅游确实是经济的一个重要推动力。 据欧洲议会研究机构估计，旅游业占欧盟国内生产总值的10％以上，相关就业人数约占总就业人数的12％。 近期，中国游客已超过美国游客成为非欧洲游客中最大的旅游消费群体。
Mr. Qi Xuchun, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC National Committee, delivering his speech at the official opening of the EU-China Tourism Year
Ms. Nikolina Angelkova, Minister of Tourism of Bulgaria, who spoke on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, announced in a fluent Italian the upcoming “High-level Ministerial Conference on Tourism and Economic Growth”, which will discuss among other the digitization of the tourist industry.
“Digital tools for tomorrow’s tourism” were extensively discussed in a special breakaway session which took place in the Venice Casino in the afternoon in the framework of the Business Summit. Four ways through which digital solutions can be leveraged to boost the number of Chinese visitors to Europe were highlighted by Ms. Claudia Vernotti, Director of ChinaEU.
Claudia Vernotti, Director of ChinaEU, sharing opinions with Mario Campanari, CEO of Hyperfair and Michel De Blust, Secretary General at ECTAA at the session on Digital Tools for Tomorrow’s Tourism
中欧数字协会主任Claudia Vernotti在“未来旅游的数字工具”主题研讨会上与Hyperfair CEO Mario Campanari、欧洲旅行社与旅游经销商联合会秘书长Michel De Blust一起各抒己见
First, to overcome the language gap, there are new applications such as Go With Tommy that allow Chinese visitors to find out, in real time and in Chinese language, location of/and information on tourism attractions, accommodation etc. without requiring interactions with locals. Second, as relying on browsers or online booking agencies is becoming insufficient to effectively promote destinations, there is a new generation of digital marketing solutions leveraging social media, big data and artificial intelligence, such as the Wechat mini-programs. She also mentioned innovative platforms proposing customized offers in line with the tourists’ browsing history, such as Dublin-based startup B-Smark’s Combi-action technology. Third, there is new software integrating visual recognition, virtual and enhanced reality to dramatically increase the tourism experience. An example of this, is the Venice Time Machine project allowing to re-visit the Venice of the past, through a complex process of collection and analysis of big data of the past. Fourth, there are innovative ways to make it easier for tourists to set off on an overseas trip in the first place, such as online visa application services offered by Ctrip and Alitrip.
首先，“美景听听”（Go With Tommy）等新的手机应用帮助中国游客克服了语言上的障碍，让中国游客可以实时地使用中文找到旅游景点的位置、信息和住宿等，解决了与当地人交流困难的问题。其次，依托在线旅行社已不足以有效地推广旅游目的地，应运而生的是社交媒体、大数据和人工智能等新一代数字营销解决方案，如微信小程序。她还提到了创新的平台，比如说都柏林的创业公司B-Smark通过Combi-action技术，根据游客的浏览历史为游客推荐个性化优惠。第三，集视觉识别、虚拟现实和增强现实为一体的新软件大幅提升了旅游体验。威尼斯的时间机器项目就是一个例子，它通过一整套复杂的收集、分析过去的大数据的方法，使人们可以重新访问过去的威尼斯。第四，用创新的方式便利出国旅游，比如携程和飞猪提供的在线签证申请服务。
To fully realize the potential offered by digital transformation, substantial changes in business models will be needed. There needs to be an increase in digitally skilled workers in hotels, tourism boards, and all tourism-related sites. Retailers, but also museums, and transport providers should accelerate the integration of e-payment solutions like WeChat Pay, Alipay and Unionpay, accepting money online through QR codes. And last but not least, there needs to be a way to secure an “always connected” environment, without which all the digital solutions described above cannot work. A bright idea in this respect came from Dutch telecom operator KPN, which few months ago launched the WeChat Go Simcard, enabling Chinese visitors to navigate on 4G all over Europe without concerns over roaming charges.
要充分实现数字化转型的潜力，商业模式需要实质性的变化。酒店、旅游局和所有旅游相关场所需要更多的掌握数字技能的工作人员。 零售商、博物馆和运输商应该加快微信支付、支付宝和银联等电子支付解决方案的整合，通过二维码实现在线支付。 最后一项要点是，需要有一种方式来确保“始终连通”的环境，否则上述所有数字解决方案均无法奏效。为此，荷兰电信运营商KPN在几个月前推出了微信Go Simcard业务，使得中国用户可以在全欧洲范围内使用4G手机网络，而不必担心漫游费用。
According to an old Chinese saying, “traveling a thousand miles beats reading ten thousand books”. Tomorrow, digital innovations and connected devices will enable this saying to be translated into concrete experience.