Press Releases EU policymakers advocate tourism industry digitization

EU policymakers advocate tourism industry digitization

EU policymakers advocate tourism industry digitization


Tourism is not only leisure. Tourism is a major factor for economic growth. This was the central message of the high-level meeting of the Ministers of Tourism from the EU, convened in Sofia on 13 February by the Bulgarian Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova. Amongst the attendees, there was a considerable number of tourism ministers, MEPs, European Commissioners, and representatives of the Bulgarian, Balkan and European tourism industries. During the conference, the speakers shared recent best practices and aired concrete proposals to boost the development of the tourism sector.

旅游不仅是一种休闲方式。旅游同时也是促进经济增长的主要因素。这就是于2月13日举行的欧盟旅游部长级会议讨论的核心内容。此次会议在索非亚召开,由保加利亚旅游部长Nikolina Angelkova主持。参会代表包括欧洲多国旅游部长,欧盟议会议员,欧盟委员会委员,来自保加利亚和巴尔干地区的代表,以及欧洲旅游业业界人士。会议期间,发言嘉宾们分享了近年来的成功案例,并提出了促进旅游业发展的具体建议。

The official opening of the High-level Meeting of the Ministers of Tourism in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia


Minister Angelkova highlighted the importance of tourism as an enabling factor for economic growth, connectivity, and regional and cultural integration. The dual function of tourism as an engine of economic growth and a facilitator of connectivity, rhymes well with the objectives of the EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY).


European Commissioner Elżbieta Bienkowska summarized these objectives: encouraging people to people connections, promoting lesser known destinations in Europe and China, and boosting bilateral investments in the tourism sector. In economic potential, increasing the number of Chinese tourists to the EU by only 10% relative to the current levels, she said, could translate into an additional one billion EUR in the EU economy.

欧盟委员会委员Elżbieta Bienkowska将中欧旅游年的目标总结如下:鼓励人人沟通,推广欧中非著名旅行目的地,并促进旅游业的双边投资。她表示,从经济潜力方面上来看,相较于目前水平,如果赴欧旅游的中国游客数量提高10%,那么欧盟的经济收入将可能增加10亿欧元。

A panel was dedicated to how to attract more Chinese visitors to Europe, and the Balkan region in particular, reflecting the unique opportunity provided by the ECTY.


H.E. Zhang Haizhou, Ambassador of China to Bulgaria, was the first to speak. He stressed the challenges that lesser known European destinations face in the attraction of Chinese tourists. He underlined the necessity of the EU and member-states to invest more in the promotion of such destinations among Chinese tourists, who might not be familiar with the tourism products and sites of interest that countries like Bulgaria have to offer. Visa facilitation, new direct flight connections and more knowledge about Chinese tourists can also help such destinations stand out in China. For instance, the Czech Republic is such a destination where tourist arrivals have surged since the inauguration of a direct flight in 2014.


H.E. Zhang Haizhou, Ambassador of China to Bulgaria, giving his insights about attracting Chinese tourists to less popular European destinations


The Internet can also play a very important role, according to the Ambassador. Since the emergence of online booking sites, sharing economy platforms, and electronic ticketing and reservations, the tourism sector has become increasingly digital. This is especially the case for the Chinese tourism market.



Quoting recent data, Martin Zahariev, Managing Director of the Bulgaria National Board of Tourism Association, explained that 57% of the Chinese traveling to Europe book their trips via the mobile application of the largest Chinese online travel agent Ctrip. The huge demand from Chinese tourists for online booking makes Ctrip the world’s second largest online booking company.

保加利亚国家旅游协会执行总监Martin Zahariev引用最新数据解释说,有57%赴欧旅行的中国游客是通过中国最大的在线旅行社——携程的移动应用端预订他们的行程。中国游客对网上预订的巨大需求使得携程成为全球第二大在线预订公司。

If European destinations want to get a bigger piece of the 129 million strong Chinese outbound tourism market pie, they have to invest in an active strategy. Today, Europe is only getting only a small piece, less than 10%. If Europe invests in digital tools based on the profile and behavior of potential Chinese visitors, it stands to gain a lot.


In her contribution to the roundtable, ChinaEU Director Claudia Vernotti, gave concrete examples of ways to attract more Chinese tourists to lesser known destinations, such as Sofia. She suggested using a “WeChat Mini-Program”. WeChat is by far the most popular Chinese app, which combines the functions of Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype, Amazon, Instagram and several other applications to become something extremely intrinsic to Chinese people’s lifestyle and traveling. This Mini-Program could provide Chinese tourists with information in both English and Chinese about the main attractions a city has to offer, as well as shopping, dining and accommodation options, in real time location and with the opportunity to book and pay tickets directly online.


ChinaEU Director Claudia Vernotti addressing the roundtable on Europe-China Tourism, together with (from left to right): Tom Jenkins, CEO of European Tourism Association (ETOA); Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Unit of Tourism, Emerging and Creative Industries at DG GROW; Zhang Haizhou, Chinese Ambassador to Bulgaria; Martin Zahariev, Chairman of the Bulgaria National Board of Tourism; Oliver Fodor, Deputy Director General of the Department for Tourism International Relations at the Hungarian Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Vasil Gelev, Director of the Centre for Promotion of Cooperation in Agriculture between China and CEE countries at the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry; and Ivan Todorov, Chairman of Bulgarian Center for Development, Investment and Tourism in China

中国数字协会主席韦茉莉在欧洲-中国旅游分组讨论会上发言,一同发言的还有(从左至右):欧洲旅游协会(ETOA)首席执行官Tom Jenkins,欧盟委员会内部市场、工业与中小企业事务司旅游、新兴产业与创意产业部门主管Anna Athanasopoulou,中国驻保加利亚大使张海舟,保加利亚国家旅游协会执行总监Martin Zahariev,匈牙利外交与对外经济部旅游国际关系司副司长Oliver Fodor,保加利亚农业,食品与林业部中国与中东欧国家促进农业合作中心主任Vasil Gelev,以及保加利亚在华发展、投资和旅游中心主席Ivan Todorov

A second concrete suggestion that Ms. Vernotti gave was to conclude a partnership between the Chinese online travel agent Ctrip and the Bulgaria National Board of Tourism. Hungary has already entered in an agreement to increase the profile of Budapest in China. Bulgaria could benefit from such a similar arrangement.


A third avenue to investigate is cooperation with Chinese TV productions, where Bulgaria could be captured as a location for future series or movies. This way extra visibility could be given to the historic and cultural sites of Bulgaria, which can surely help entice Chinese tourists. Ivan Todorov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Center for Development, Investment and Tourism in China, brought forward the example of the Bulgarian village of Momchilovtsi. This village rose to fame in China through its yoghurt, which is said to stimulate longevity, but also due to it being the set of the Chinese version of the reality TV show “Survivor”.

第三点建议是与中国影视剧制作单位合作,这样保加利亚可以在未来成为中国影视剧的拍摄地。这种合作不仅可以为保加利亚的历史文化遗址增加曝光度,还能吸引大量中国游客。保加利亚在华发展、投资和旅游中心主席Ivan Todorov列举了保加利亚村庄Momchilovtsi的例子。该村庄因其出产的延年益寿的酸奶而在中国声名鹊起,但该村庄在中国走红的另外一个原因则是它曾在中国版真人秀节目《生存者》中作为取景地出现。

Sofia this year will have two other important occasions to capitalize on, in order to achieve the objective of digitizing the tourism industry in Bulgaria and the surrounding Balkan region in the framework of the ECTY: the EU Digital Assembly in June and the 16+1 Summit in late Autumn.


Agenda of the event

Pictures of the event

Videos of the keynote speeches and different panels




ChinaEU is a business-led International Association aimed at intensifying joint research, business cooperation and mutual investments in Internet, Telecom and Hi-tech between China and Europe. ChinaEU provides a platform for constructive dialogue among industry leaders and top-level representatives of European Institutions and the Chinese Government.

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