Chinese tourism growth has Africa as major beneficiary
By Toumert AI, Global Times
Two movies that were shown this year in Chinese cinemas, Operation Red Sea and Wolf Warrior II, not only brought huge success to their producers; they were also considered ideal ways for Chinese audiences to see more of Africa, and to encourage them to visit the continent and see its natural beauty, lifestyle and cultural heritage.
Indeed, with China’s booming economy, better jobs, and an open policy toward developing better cultural exchanges, Chinese travelers are now sought after by many regions around the world.
While Asia, Europe and the Americas still take the largest share of Chinese outbound tourism, Africa has recently become an attractive destination as well, and the number of visits to the continent from China reflect this new trend.
Morocco, South Africa, Madagascar and Namibia are now considered top destinations in the continent for Chinese tourists.
The greater interest in Africa among Chinese tourists is partly due to a shift in strategy by African nations, along with support from Chinese policymakers. African countries have developed national strategies targeting Chinese tourists’ spending power, as well as Chinese capital, tourism know-how and logistical strength.
Showing its awareness of the importance of Chinese tourism, Morocco decided to grant a visa waiver for Chinese visitors in 2016.
The move had immediate results: Arrivals from China increased almost 6 times in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. And the visa waiver was only the first step taken by Morocco to achieve its tourism development plans, as outlined in the Vision 2020 plan.
The plan aims to boost Morocco’s tourism sector by doubling its accommodation capacity. The creation of 200,000 new beds with a focus on new markets such as China will help to create up to 1 million jobs and boost tourism revenues to 140 billion Dhs ($38 billion) by 2020.
Morocco realized that to achieve its tourism development plans, it was necessary to secure Chinese arrivals and Chinese investment.
Morocco has been working with the European market, and while this has been beneficial, the next phase of growth needs to seek viable, sustainable alternatives, both in terms of tourist origin and investment support. To facilitate access to financial resources, the country created the Moroccan Fund for Tourism Development (FMDT) to support investors’ confidence and give a boost to major projects.
Regarding transportation, the Moroccan authorities have established an ambitious plan to re-vamp main and regional airports, and there have been discussions about bringing in Chinese aviation companies to take over the operations in certain terminals.
In October 2017, the Moroccan Agency for Tourism Development (SMIT) successfully concluded its roadshow in China. As stated by Imad Barrakad, CEO of SMIT, Morocco has a strong legal environment for tourism investment, as well as government incentives such as tax exemptions.
The importance of Chinese tourism has also been recognized by South Africa.
The country has taken a series of crucial measures to attract Chinese tourists and investment, including adding another five visa centers around China in 2016, having accredited Chinese travel agencies handle the procedures, and creating direct flights to Johannesburg. China is now one of South Africa’s top five sources of tourists.
In 2017, South Africa and China launched the Tourism Growth Initiative Program, under which South Africa’s Standard Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) created the “I Go to South Africa” loyalty program to boost investment flows and encourage tourism between the two countries.
As in Morocco, South African policymakers understand the importance of tourism from China for advancing economic growth and job creation.
The author is director of education with the International Bachelor Program at the International School under China Foreign Affairs University. [email protected]
Chinese tourists in Africa from google images