On October 27-30 the Third World Rural Tourism Conference took place in Zhejiang province. It is traditionally held in Huzhou district, and that is not a coincidence: it is an example to follow to Chinese rural tourism. Its organizers were local authorities and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) was found in 1951. It consolidates non-governmental organizations, tour operators, airline companies and hotels from the region.
Firstly it contemplated to attract tourist to Pacific Asia region and develop its infrastructure, now the association pays more attention to organizing outbound tourist flows from South-East Asia. An interaction with East Europe has been rendered active lately. The conference gathered participants and guests from Asia, Oceania, Europe and Africa, including the representatives of the Belarusian Republican Union of Tourism Industry.
The conference topics emphasize the importance of rural tourism for the country: in particular, the role of rural tourism in authentic culture preservation, the importance of development of such segment as rural manors, practice sharing of one of China’s most notable tourist objects, the Forbidden City palace museum. The Chinese initiative “One belt, one road” was also brought into focus. It involves projects of creating, developing and strengthening the international cooperation mechanisms. It entails China’s leading role and encompasses the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt. Belarus is a part of the latter.
As the conference defined, the perception of rural tourism in China is very different from Belarusian one. In Belarus the rural tourism development concept implicates the preservation of rural lifestyles and cultural heritage, emphasizing the educational aspect, while in Huzhou another way was taken.
From the Chinese point of view, country health resorts, out-of-town guest houses and even historical site restoration in villages and small towns can be interpreted as rural tourism.
It is interesting that in Huzhou a cluster system has been mastered: a tourist center allots tourist to a resort community’s guest houses and organizes trips to local places if interest.
Besides, the cornerstone of the local rural tourism concept is the enhancement of local people’s well-being. That’s why local authorities support the erection of health resort areas and tourist complexes in picturesque rural China. The key idea is to offer the guests both natural amusement and comfortable accommodation.
From that point of view, Belarusian experience in rural tourism with cultural identity emphasis can be of interest to China.
Gan Yungfu, head of the Huzhou tourism board:
“I have not been to Belarus, but I hope to make time to visit that country. I know that Belarusians are industrious and brave people; you have a lot of new ideas on economic development. We are looking for actual cooperation with the Belarusian side, especially in sharing experience in tourism marketing and tourism product creation. I hope I will be able to visit Belarus soon and see its capabilities myself.”
But demand for Belarus in China is growing not only for its sharing experience potential, but for being a prospective tourist destination. Zhejiang is situated in the South-East China, noted for the high pace of economic growth and urbanization. In such a situation the value of rural tourism is growing, just as the demand for that product on internal and external markets.
“Today Belarus’s prospective are good, especially because of the visa-free regime, which has been in force since the last year for Hong Kong and since August for the continental China. However, businessmen and tourists know little about that country so far. That’s why we have recently organized a FAM trip to Belarus and are expecting a tourist flow from the so-called Greater Bay – 11 cities with fast-growing economies, situated in the bay of the South China Sea and including Hong Kong, Makao, Guangzhou, Shenzhen. Both well-to-do tourists and businessmen, interested in economic and educational cooperation can come this way.” – Matthew Ма, the general representative of Visit Russia & Visit Kazakhstan in Hong Kong, head of ETP Asia Partners Limited.
According to Matthew Ma, the flow of Chinese tourists heading to Belarus will be growing, but we should give priority to well-to-do tourists and businessmen. “Only then you will be able to adjust the wide flow of travelers from China, just like in Russia, – he says. – Unfortunately, Belarus is not ready to accept such amounts: it lacks quality of both accommodation and transportation. It is important, that there is a direct flight by the Air China from Beijing to Minsk, and it would be even better if a flight from the Southern China (Guangzhou, Shenzhen or Hong Kong) apeeared.
Dzmitry Marozau, head of excursion and transport committee of the Republican Union of Tourism Industry:
“The conference has been organized on a high scale and a high professional level. Despite the difference between our countries, we share the same problems: shaping of an actual tourist product, elaborating the patterns of cooperation with operators and GDSs, finding a balance between authentic individuality and an “assembly line”. It would be very good, if the Belt and the Road initiative give us a possibility to show to Chinese specialists successful examples of Belarusian rural manors and hold a bilateral workshop.”