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Year of tourism for China, Pacific island countries launched to promote cultural, personnel exchanges
The 2019 Year of Tourism for China and Pacific Island Countries was launched here at a grand ceremony in the capital of Samoa, with colored fireworks and wonderful cultural programs.
Luo Shugang, China's minister of culture and tourism, read a congratulatory message extended by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the event at the ceremony.
In a speech delivered at the opening ceremony, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Samoa's acting prime minister, hailed the launch of the tourism year, noting that it is the direct outcome of the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO)'s attendance of a high-level dialogue of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China in 2017.
China-Pacific Tourism Year 2019 is a milestone achievement and offers a great opportunity for Pacific Island countries to showcase China what the Pacific Island countries have to offer with their stunning natural landscapes, sandy beaches, unique culture and friendly people, she said.
"China-Pacific Tourism Year 2019 also reflects, how we as leaders of the region, have placed value on the thriving Asian outbound tourism markets particularly China with the world's largest outbound market of around 140 million visitors last year," she said.
Increasingly, Chinese travellers are looking for new destinations and experiences and the Pacific island region is still an untapped destination. she added.
Both SPTO Chief Executive Officer Christopher Cocker and Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) Chief Executive Officer Papalii Sonja Hunter made it clear that Pacific island nations, including Samoa, are ready to welcome Chinese tourists.
They told Xinhua on Monday that the Pacific tourism industry is currently working on programs to be "China Ready," and the focus is to sustainably develop and promote the Pacific to niche Chinese outbound market segments who wish to experience the region's beautiful islands, unique cultures and the healthy, organic food experience of the region.
The two believed that there is great potential for the tourism cooperation between China and the Pacific island countries which attract a total of 2.1 million visitors each year, and of such visitors, an estimated 125,000 plus Chinese visitors visited the Pacific region.
In their opinions, China is an important target for tourism growth in the region over the coming years given its numbers and spending power of Chinese visitors.
According to Hunter, the launch of tourism year marks an important chapter in Samoa's tourism calendar as it officially marks the country's categorisation as a tourism destination for Chinese visitors.
"We, as Samoans, have DNA connections with China as some Samoans have blood relationship with Chinese. We love Chinese. We are ready and welcome them to visit our beautiful country," Hunter said.
Last year, Samoa, which has a population of more than 190,000, received over 172,000 foreign tourists. Currently, Samoa has a development blueprint to woo more foreign tourists.
Chinese Ambassador to Samoa Chao Xiaoliang told Xinhua that the tourism year is a very important event for China and Pacific island countries as this will help promote the cultural and personnel exchanges between them.
"I do believe that the tourism year will be a great success and the cooperation between China and Pacific Island countries in the tourism sector will no doubt bring tangible benefits to the people of the Pacific," he said.
  Source: Xinhua Net

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