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China, Africa see expanded tourism cooperation

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Chinese tourists pose for a picture with an Egyptian tour guide in front of the Luxor Temple, Egypt. (Photo provided by Abbas El-Said)
Chinese tourists pose for a picture with an Egyptian tour guide in front of the Luxor Temple, Egypt. (Photo provided by Abbas El-Said)

By Peng Xunwen, Wu Yue,

China just witnessed a booming outbound tourism market during the past May Day holiday. Apart from traditional popular destinations in Southeast Asia and Europe, an increasing number of Chinese tourists chose to travel to Africa, to see the pyramids in Egypt and the vast plains of Kenya.

Not only Chinese but also international tourists are showing a growing interest in Africa. According to the newest edition of the World Tourism Barometer released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the number of international tourist trips paid to Africa hit 66.4 million in 2023. Among them, 39.6 million were paid to sub-Saharan Africa.

Analysts attributed the strong momentum of tourism in Africa to the diverse range of measures implemented by countries on the continent, which have injected new impetus into regional economic development.

During this year’s May Day holiday, a woman surnamed Chen from east China’s Zhejiang province had a trip to Kenya with her child. 

“My child has always loved observing animals in the wild. On Kenya’s vast grasslands, we saw lions hunting, gaining a firsthand understanding of the laws of nature that felt more real than what we read in books,” Chen shared. 

She told People’s Daily that inside the conservation areas, they hiked alongside experienced guides, enjoying intimate and safe encounters with the animals. This experience was truly new to them, she said.

The temples and ancient ruins scattered along the Nile River, including the pyramids, the Sphinx and the Luxor Temple, have attracted many Chinese tourists.

“During this year’s May Day holiday, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Egypt has significantly increased compared to the same period last year, with group tours remaining the preferred choice for travelers. There has also been a noticeable increase in independent travelers who prioritize freedom and personalized choices,” said Wang Peizhong, head of the Egypt China General Association, who has been engaged in the tourism industry for many years. According to him, his travel agency received new tourists every day during the holiday.

According to statistics, Africa is becoming one of the popular destinations for Chinese tourists. 

Statistics released by online travel platform Mafengwo indicated that African countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, and Mauritius became new choices for many young travelers during the May Day holiday this year. 

Data from Statistics South Africa also showed a rapid increase in the number of international tourists arriving in the country last year, with a total of 37,000 Chinese tourists, a year-on-year growth of 205.5 percent. 

Tanzania’s tourism authorities estimated that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Tanzania had grown from nearly 34,000 in 2019 to approximately 44,000 last year.

China and African countries are jointly strengthening their tourism capacity building. Recently, a training program on tourism capacity building for English-speaking African countries kicked off in Beijing and Hangzhou, hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and organized by the Central Academy of Culture and Tourism Administration. 

A total of 26 officials, experts, and scholars from countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania participated in the training program.

The training program focused on topics such as tourism policies, scenic area development and management, standardization, and the integration of culture and tourism development. Experts and scholars from institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the China Tourism Academy were invited to share China’s practical experience in the development of the tourism industry.

A report on China-Africa Belt and Road cooperation highlighted that China has signed bilateral tourism cooperation agreements with 31 African countries, listed 34 African countries as outbound group tour destinations for its citizens and established 166 pairs of sister cities with Africa. 

Both sides actively invite each other to participate in tourism exhibitions and join tourism promotion events, building a platform for experience sharing, business negotiation, and product promotion between the Chinese and African tourism departments and enterprises.

Professor Song Wei from the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University said that as Belt and Road cooperation continues to deepen, China and Africa have carried out extensive cooperation to promote tourism visa facilitation, increase direct flights, enhance tourism safety and quality, strengthen hotel and scenic spot construction, and promote tourism routes, and these efforts have yielded fruitful results. 

“The tourism industries of China and Africa have distinct characteristics and strong complementarity, exhibiting a reciprocal dynamic,” Song added.

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