Ctrip and Sicily boost tourism co-operation with strategic partnership


Left-right: Bo Sun (Ctrip CMO), Michele Geraci (Undersecretary MISE), Gaetano Armao (Vice-President Region of Sicily), Lucia di Fatta (Regional Department of Economy)

6th August, PALERMO, ITALY – Ctrip, the largest online travel agency in Asia today announced a strategic partnership with Sicily that promises to bring a bigger share of the world’s largest outbound tourism market to the Mediterranean island.


Top-down, left-right: Bo Sun (Ctrip CMO), Michele Geraci (Undersecretary MISE), Gaetano Armao (Vice-President Region of Sicily), Lucia di Fatta (General Director Regional Department of Tourism), Leah Wang (Ctrip Head International Affairs), Alessandro Albanese (President Sicindustria), Francesco Picarella (President Confcommercio Sicily), Giuseppe Cassarà (President Federturismo Sicily)

In the presence of Michele Geraci, Undersecretary of State for International Trade and Investment Attraction at the Ministry of Economic Development, Ctrip Chief Marketing Officer Bo Sun, the Region of Sicily, represented by Gaetano Armao, Regional Councilor for Economy and Vice-President of the Region of Sicily, and Lucia Di Fatta, General Director of the Regional Department of Tourism, Sport and Entertainment, on behalf of Councilor Manlio Messina, exchanged letters of mutual appreciation and support for a strategic partnership between Ctrip and the local industry, represented by Alessandro Albanese, President of Sicindustria and Francesco Picarella, President of Confcommercio Sicilia. Tourism is a vital aspect of Italy-China bilateral co-operation. Italy is already one of the most popular destinations in Europe for Chinese visitors and continues to attract more visitors every year. In first half of 2019, according to Ctrip data, hotel reservations in Italy experienced a year-on-year growth of 200%, making Italy the top destination for Chinese tourists in Europe.

In 1787, The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said, “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything”. Sicily is adored by Italian and foreign visitors alike. Among international visitors, Germany, France, UK, Spain and US currently account for the majority of visitors, whereas tourist flows from China remain modest. According to statistics from the Region of Sicily, 26,418 Chinese tourists visited the island in 2018, an increase of 25% compared to 2017. The numbers recorded are still very modest percentage if seen out of the total of 3 million Chinese arrivals in Italy.

As the 2020 Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism approaches, Ctrip and Sicily have formalized a partnership to help the island to untap the potential to attract more Chinese visitors as part of an effort to develop trade and people-to-people exchange between China and Italian regions.

With over 300 million users in China, Ctrip has pledged to allocate its online platforms and media connections to promote Sicilian tourism destinations and unique local experiences to the Chinese high-end outbound tourism market, from seaside resorts and medical spas, to food and wine tours; art and history itineraries, such as the Segesta and Selinunte archaeological parks and the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento; natural tracks such as skiing on Etna Volcano and diving in Ustica; and, even local events, including the Taormina film festival and the Carnival of Acireale.

Against the backdrop of the recent visit by President Xi Jinping to Palermo on 23rd March 2019, today’s strategic partnership lays strong foundations to untap the potential of Sicily as a promising tourism destination for the Chinese market.

An increase in the number of high-end Chinese tourists coming to the island promises to bring important benefits for the local economy. According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of tourism to the economy in 2017 was 223.2 billion euros, equivalent to 13% of GDP, a number which is three percentage points higher than the European and world average. Over 3.4 million jobs, or 14.7% of the country’s total employment were directly and indirectly generated by tourism in 2017. Chinese tourists are known to be among the highest spending international travelers, with an average daily consumption of €930, and up €1600 for the wealthiest Chinese tourists, and stand to bring significant stimulus to local businesses.

“We are very excited about this co-operation with Sicily and look forward to working more closely across the board with the Italian tourism industry. Italy is already one of the most popular destinations for the growing Chinese outbound tourism market. In 2017, Chinese tourists contributed USD 258 billion to the global economy, and in 2018, 150 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas. From restaurants to local artisans, all areas of the local Sicilian economy will gain from being a part of this massive trend. As the 2020 Year of Tourism and Culture between China and Italy fast approaches, there are vast opportunities for imaginative destination marketing solutions, we can’t wait to bring more Chinese tourists to Sicily and experience all that this beautiful region has to offer.” said Bo Sun, Chief Marketing Officer of Ctrip.

“After the meeting that took place a few months ago with the President of China, extensive opportunities have opened up for Sicily, opportunities that have already seen important developments and that today found a further and concrete possibility of evolution in the tourism sector. Role of institutions, both state and regional, is to accompany the collaboration between Ctrip and Sicily and this is what we intend to do with President Musumeci and Councilor Messina” declares the Vice-President of the Sicilian Region and Regional Councilor for Economy, Gaetano Armao. “Relations between Sicily and China do not start this year – the Vice-President added – Some meetings started in 2009, agreements were signed in the tourism and infrastructure sectors. Today, we relaunch these relations and the opportunities are extraordinary. Over the past ten years, the tourism sector has made a lot of progress and today Sicily is more ready to accept proposals coming from Chinese tour operators and enterprises”.

Lucia Di Fatta, General Director of the Regional Department for Tourism, Sport and Entertainment, representing Councilor Manlio Messina said: “Relations between Italy and China, after the visit to Rome and Palermo of President Xi Jinping, are intensifying both in commercial and cultural terms, and now also with a greater flow of Chinese tourists who want to visit Italy. From today, I am sure that those who wish to visit Sicily will increase even more”, she says. “For this reason, I wish to express all my appreciation, and so did the Councilor formally with a letter, for the conclusion of these MoUs between Ctrip, Sicindustria and Confcommercio Sicilia, which are signed today in the presence of the Chinese delegation and Undersecretary of State Michele Geraci, who made it possible to come today to these signatures. All the initiatives useful for intensifying relations between companies, especially in the field of tourism, are always welcome – adds Director Di Fatta – so as to encourage the exchange of best practices and the implementation of promotional strategies, with the aim of offering support to regional businesses in the marketing of local tourism products. “

“The signing of these agreements between Ctrip, Sicindustria and Confcommercio Sicilia in the tourism sector”, declared Undersecretary of State Michele Geraci, “represent a further visible result that derives directly from the signing of the MoU on the Belt and Road and the work of the China Task Force. Sicily is preparing to receive in the coming years a growing flow of Chinese tourists, which will be a small but important driver for the industry of Sicily and the South of Italy. Last year saw a significant increase in the number of foreign tourists: Sicily went from 3.7 million foreign visitors in 2017 to 4.5 million in 2018 (+ 21.9%), that is the largest share in the entire South of Italy. With reference to the expenditure of foreign tourists, there is a growing trend between 2017 and 2018, both in Sicily (+ 12.7%) and generally in the South of Italy (+ 8.8%), in any case higher than the growth recorded in the Center-North (+ 6.1%). In addition to tourism, we are also promoting our agri-food and industrial sectors, synergetic sectors with tourism as often emphasized by Tourism Minister Gian Marco Centinaio, with a particular eye to both small and medium enterprises, which I want to emphasize, represent over 99% of the Italian entrepreneurial system, and more important production sites. The objective is to promote investments which can create jobs in the South of Italy and, thanks to this agreement, in Sicily in particular.”

“Today’s MoUs with Ctrip are strategic for all the Sicilian economic and productive network. The link between Sicily and an actual potential market like that of Chinese tourism opens to a development that will foremost result in an increase in tourism, but which will also involve all Sicilian production and industrial chains. The understanding developing between the Chinese travel giant Ctrip and the Sicilian tourism trade associations belonging to Sicindustria, Federturismo, and Confcommercio, Federalberghi is fundamental. The agreement aims to increase bilateral touristic flows and to promote Sicily as a tourist destination in the constantly growing Chinese market. From now on, a virtuous collaboration decisive for the future of Sicilian tourist companies can start” declared Alessandro Albanese, President of Sicindustria, and Francesco Picarella, President of Confcommercio Sicilia.

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