Virtual Tourism Opportunities

The European Travel Commission (ETC) is holding the first EUROPE Virtual Travel Trade Show in China from 19-23 April, bringing together European destinations and travel companies with buyers in China, to prepare for the successful recovery of Chinese tourism to Europe. The event is co-funded by the European Union.

This first-of-its-kind event seeks to educate and establish meaningful partnerships with the Chinese travel trade regarding European destinations and experiences, showcase Europe’s readiness to welcome Chinese travelers back when the time is right, and highlight the European tourism industry’s commitment to health and safety protocols.

The event and its exhibitor selection are centered on three key themes: Creative Cities, Nature, and History. These themes will be reflected in the exhibitors’ digital resources provided to the Chinese travel trade, as well as during the event’s conference sessions. Spread over three days, the New Horizons Forum will feature industry experts from both China and Europe, for high-level discussions on the future of tourism. Conference sessions include keynote speeches from ETC Executive Director, Eduardo Santander, and from two distinguished Chinese officials: President of China Tourism Academy, Dai Bin, and Secretary General of China Association of Travel Services, Sun Guizhen. The program also features two panel discussions on “Where Is China’s Tourism Market Heading Post-Pandemic” and “Experience-focused and Customized Travel for FITs”, with the aim of generating ideas on how Europe can seize the opportunity to capture early market share when travel resumes.

This 100% online B2B event connects European destinations and their local partners with more than 200 pre-qualified Chinese buyers for 1-on-1 virtual meetings via video call and chat on any device – desktop computer, mobile or WeChat. The platform is fully bilingual, with interpretation services available upon request. In addition to the matchmaking meetings, exhibitors will also have digital booths, where they can share brochures, videos, and other information with trade visitors. Each European exhibitor will have an opportunity to discuss future cooperation with at least 15 Chinese buyers from leading travel companies. The full event, including B2B matchmaking sessions, virtual exhibition, and online conference sessions, is powered by virtual event partner Dragon Trail International.

The trade show will feature 100 exhibitors selected through a rigorous application process. The final set of 100 exhibitors takes into account geographical balance, and the alignment of products with the ETC’s objective of attracting the new generation of Chinese FIT and small group travelers who travel to enjoy unique natural, cultural and historical experiences. The 100 exhibitors come from 24 European countries, including national, regional, and municipal tourism boards and their local partners, including hotels, retailers, tour operators, and transportation companies.

Europe has remained the first-choice long-haul destination for Chinese travelers throughout the pandemic, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming back Chinese visitors to enjoy our renowned tourism resources including diverse nature, creative cities, and rich history. As the ETC’s first virtual event for the China market, the EUROPE Travel Trade Show in China aims to kick start the recovery process, empowering European destinations and tourism providers to make essential connections for future business through an innovative, multi-functional digital platform,” said Zuzanna Gutkowska, Chairperson of the ETC China Chapter.

Opening Up New Chinese Markets

Nine tourism enterprises from around the island of Ireland are joining Tourism Ireland virtually at the ETOA China European Marketplace, today (11 May).

The online B2B workshop is organised by the European Tourism Association (ETOA) and will be attended by around 70 Chinese tour operators and travel buyers. It involves a series of pre-scheduled, one-to-one video appointments – connecting the companies from Ireland with the Chinese travel professionals.

The aim is to showcase the island of Ireland to these key tour operators and travel buyers from China, to position us well for when the time is right to welcome Chinese, and other international, visitors once again.

Iris Wang, Tourism Ireland’s Marketing Manager in China, said:

“We are really pleased to take part in the ETOA China European Marketplace. The format of virtual one-to-one appointments provides a good opportunity for our partners to showcase the island of Ireland to the important Chinese tour operators and travel buyers. Our message for those travel professionals is that, when the time is right, we will have everything ready to welcome Chinese visitors back to our shores. We’ll be assuring them that tourism companies across the island of Ireland have been implementing all the required new health and safety measures – but will still be ready to deliver a fantastic holiday experience for their clients.”

Belfast delegation Visits China

A delegation from Belfast – including the Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey and officials from Visit Belfast – are visiting Shenyang, a city in China’s northeast Liaoning Province which is twinned with Belfast, this week. They met local travel journalists and travel agents, at a showcase event organised by Tourism Ireland yesterday (13 September).

According to Tourism Ireland, we welcomed around 90,000 Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland in 2017, up +43% on 2016. Tourism Ireland is rolling out a busy programme of promotions in China this autumn, to continue to raise awareness of Northern Ireland and to position us well for 2019. Activity includes co-operative promotions with Hainan Airlines and Cathay Pacific to highlight ease of access to Ireland, as well as partnerships with key influencers and bloggers.

James Kenny, Tourism Ireland’s Manager China, said:

This week’s visit by the Belfast delegation is an excellent opportunity to highlight Belfast and Northern Ireland to influential travel professionals and journalists in Shenyang.

“China is the largest outbound travel market in the world and one that Tourism Ireland is committed to growing over the coming years. In 2017, we welcomed an estimated 90,000 Chinese visitors to the island of Ireland; the introduction of direct flights to Dublin from Beijing and Hong Kong this year is a major game-changer and offers a real opportunity for us to grow this emerging travel market over the coming years.”


Deputy Mayor of Shenyang (back, 10th left); Deirdre Hargey, Lord Mayor of Belfast (back, 11th right); Tim Losty, NI Bureau (back, centre); David Boyce (back, fifth left), Steffi Zhang (back, second left) and James Kenny (front, third left), all Tourism Ireland; Gerry Lennon (back, sixth left) and Rachel McGuickin (back, seventh left), both Visit Belfast; Laura Leonard, Belfast City Council (back, second right); Ms Zhang, Hainan Airlines (back, third left); and officials from Shenyang, at the Belfast showcase event in Shenyang organised by Tourism Ireland.

Finding Wee Paddy

In our I in NI Programme we have been exploring the links between Northern Ireland and China down through the centuries. From Lord McCartney the County Antrim aristocrat and first British diplomat to China to today's trade and tourism exchanges we have more links than we often realise. In Northern Ireland's recent Decade of Centenaries the impact of the First World War on society, culture and even our place in the world has been explored. China interestingly was our ally in that war, and contributed massively through the Chinese Labour Corps.

Between the wars British soldiers were stationed in Hong Kong and when Japan invaded China they were sent to China to stop thew Japanese advance. Based in Shanghai the Royal Ulster Rifles, a regiment raised in Northern Ireland helped to protect an area of Shanghai and offered humanitarian aid to the local Chinese population. They even broke their own orders to engage the Japanese forces in order to protect Chinese civilians as they fled the fighting.

In August 1937, the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles was moved at twenty-four hours notice from Hong Kong to Shanghai on emergency deployment following the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The Battalion's task was to assist with the protection of the International Settlement. The British frontage extended for five miles and there was much to be done. Military posts had to be re-designed or re-constructed and wire fences erected. Refugees had to be controlled and internal security maintained. The perimeter wire was well outside the Settlement boundary and the area between was policed by a Chinese force responsible only to their own Government.

Five Riflemen were killed by the Japanese during three separate incidents. On 24 October, Rifleman McGowan was killed on duty at Outpost Q on Keswick Road by fire from a Japanese aircraft. On the 29 October, Japanese shells killed Riflemen Mellon and Howard at the outpost near Jessfield Station and Delaney, who was with them, died of his wounds on 31 October. Also killed that day, by a Japanese shell that hit the Honeyland Bar where he was off duty, was Rifleman O’Toole.

The Northern Ireland soldiers were buried in Shangai with the local Chinese population attending the funerals which were said to be the largest seen win the city. The incidents caused international outrage and made the front page of the New York Times as well as local Belfast papers.

In recent years the Neice of one of the Riflemen Paddy McGowan determined to find his grave and the poignant story has become the subject of a local film "Finding Wee Paddy". It tells the story of Paddy and his act of heroism saving local Chinese civilians. Then how in recent years efforts by his family the British and Chinese Governments as well as historians and the community have helped to locate his final resting place.




Sister Cities Helping One Another

One of the real good news stories which came out of the pandemic was the mutual support between Chinese communities here in Northern Ireland and in China. An act of generosity by the local Chinese community as they felt it their duty to help Belfast's sister city resulted in much needed support for the NHS locally.

Members of Belfast's Chinese community raised over £15,000 to send vital protective clothing to China as new cases of coronavirus continue to soar.

China is struggling to deal with severe shortages of equipment such as protective suits, goggles and masks, which are now being sent to Belfast's sister city of Shenyang.

Around 1,200 protective suits have been despatched to the Red Cross for distribution to health workers fighting on the front line against the spread of coronavirus.

Min Shen (43) from the Chinese Welfare Association in Belfast, who has lived here for 20 years, said the city's Chinese community, which numbers some 7,000 people, wanted to help those back home.

"We had the request from authorities in Shenyang and felt it was our duty and responsibility to do what we can in a practical way... With the help of Belfast City Council to source the vital equipment from their suppliers, that is now happening. We set up a WeChat group to get the message out about fundraising and had donation boxes in various Chinese supermarkets and at our base at Stranmillis Embankment. We were delighted to have raised such a huge amount in such a short period of time,"

This act of kindness and forethought was responded to in April when Belfast received a donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) from its sister city Shenyang in China.

The shipment included 10,000 disposable medical face masks and 500 sets of disposable protective clothing - arrived in Duncrue industrial estate at a time when it was urgently needed and went straight for distribution among health workers fighting on the frontline during the Covid-19 crisis.

The shipment of PPE was in response to kit donated to Shenyang at the very beginning of the pandemic by the Chinese Welfare Association, based at Stranmillis Embankment, Belfast.

The association also recently donated £17,000 to the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Belfast Lord Mayor Daniel Baker said:

"I'd like to extend my sincere thanks to our good friend and colleague, Chinese Consul Madame Zhang, to Jiang Youwei, Mayor of Shenyang, and to all those in our sister city Shenyang, for their ongoing solidarity and support during this challenging time.

It's absolutely vital that our city's key workers are protected against this virus as they carry out their essential duties, and today's much needed supply of PPE will do a great deal to help ensure their safety.

One uplifting outcome of this incredibly challenging time is the ongoing readiness of people to reach out and help one another. It's hugely encouraging to know that this friendship, kindness and co-operation stretches right across the globe - as demonstrated by today's donation.

We look forward to further developing our sister city connections with Shenyang post-Covid-19 to develop new areas of co-operation in trade, tourism and education to help rebuild our economies."

This vital shipment arrived at a time when the entire United Kingdom was facing real challenges in terms of PPE supplies. Sourcing reliable supplies of PPE has been a constant battle during the outbreak. The NHS was getting through tens of millions of masks a week, and UK procurement officials were warning that stock were dangerously low.