Conference organized in the framework of the EU-CHINA tourism year with Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna, Italy KU Leuven University, Belgium Observatoire de la Chine Contemporaine, France.
European cities represent a major attraction for ever growing numbers of visitors. In terms of international tourist arrivals in Europe, while Europe measured approximately 3% average annual growth for the 2005-2014 period, the figure for Asia and the Pacific region in the same period was 6%, due not least to the tourism boom in China (EPRS 2015). The volume of Chinese outbound trips has grown by an average of 15.3% annually since 2010 and 27.2% annually since 2000 (European Travel Commission 2017).
European historical urban centers, with their architectural and cultural heritage, major cultural events, urban sights, are experiencing in particular an impressive increase of their Chinese visitors. Travel from China in Europe grew in the years 2003- 2008 by 11.4% and in the years 2008-2013 by 17.6% (EPRS 2015). Europe received 11.5% of the total number of Chinese outbound trips (excluding the SARs) in 2016, the largest number after Asia (European Travel Commission 2017).
Chinese tourism expenses (accommodation, shopping, entrance fees to monuments and sites) represent a major and much welcomed revenue for most urban destinations.This is not however exempt from problems. Most European cities were not prepared to host such important numbers of visitors; Monuments and sites do not always have the appropriate tools (guides; brochures, NTIC); Storytelling in most sites is Eurocentric and does not take into consideration the cultural background of the visitors; Urban tourism products are not sufficiently adapted to cater increasingly segmented Chinese markets; Heritage interpretation is poor ; Visit patterns do not allow real encounters with local inhabitants; Restauration and other offered services are not adapted to the Chinese visitors tastes; huge numbers are not appropriately managed.
This situation results in frustrations for local inhabitants, for tourism stakeholders and for Chinese visitors. Much more innovative approaches should be invented in order to improve the quality of the visits, to increase the positive impacts on local economies and to protect fragile sites. However, urban and heritage tourism represent not only a particularly important economic challenge but also a major field for collaboration for European and Chinese research and academic collaboration.
The objective of the conference is to lay the ground for a long-term EU-China academic research and professional collaboration involving academics and researchers in relation with innovative SME businesses in fields of tourism, heritage and urban studies.