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Yunnan Focusses On Indian Tourist Flow

The 65th annual convention and exhibition of Travel Agents’ Association of India (TAAI) held in Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan province in southwest China, served as a great opportunity for tourism development.

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When the two top leadership level meetings happened between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Wuhan in April as well as during BRICS Summit in July 2018, the two-way dialogue between the countries reflected the spirit of comprehensive cooperation including people to people relationships. This was very well reflected in the 65th annual convention and exhibition of Travel Agents’ Association of India (TAAI) that invited us to Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan province in southwest China.

A city known as Yunnan-Fu until the 1920s, today it is a prefecture-level city and the political, economic, communications and cultural centre of the province as well as the seat of the provincial government. The Spring city (as it is called due to its weather) was a perfect destination to host the convention in order to strengthen more people to people contacts and enhance tourism exchanges between the world’s two developing economies and most populous countries. 

The three-day convention was inaugurated by the Vice Governor of Yunnan Province, Mme. Li Malin in the presence of He Ligui, Director General of Tourism of Yunnan Province, Li Bijian, Minister and DCM, Embassy of China, New Delhi, and past and current Presidents of TAAI.

To develop tourism relationships between India and China, Li Malin said that there is huge scope for “both China and India to develop rapid economic development and increase living standards with fast-growing middle class” hence it is a “golden opportunity for tourism development.”

“Yunnan province is blessed with abundant tourism resources and endowments. An attempt like this convention and many more such events can make Yunnan as the new power house of China facing South and South East Asia,” she said. 

While revealing the developments made in the past in the province she said that the government is trying its best to make it as the strongest gateway in China with upgraded services: toilets in key scenic rural areas, improved bus stops with access to handicapped; voice assistance at tourist spots; promoting the destination on Wechat, Google, FB and so on and so forth.

According to the statistics shared by Li, in 2017, the Yunnan Province received a total of 573 million domestic and foreign tourists, raking in total revenue of 692.2 billion yuan (USD 101.1 billion).

Also present at the occasion was Sunil Kumar, President, TAAI who believed that conventions like theirs will act as a ‘model’ for further boosting closer tourism exchanges between the two countries. He said that with the convention, Yunnan and Kunming will become ‘household’ names for travel trade community in India. “China’s growing outbound and offers to the world must be capitalized by Indian Industry. This convention will be an eye-opener for those who are ready to connect with this opportunity plan the right steps to support growth and success,” he said.

This year the theme of the convention was ‘Tourism Beyond Boundaries’ and Kumar stressed on the fact that both India and China can now put tourism on the centre stage and try to build relationships around. 

An opportunity for tourism 

With the rapid economic progress and a fast-growing middle-class, Kunming is the country’s picturesque southwestern Yunnan Province. Yunnan as a paradise for Indian travellers highlights its proximity to India with dramatic landscape and breathtaking views. 

As part of the convention, the Yunnan Provincial Tourism Development Commission signed an agreement with TAAI to promote tourism between India and Yunnan. “Both the regions will work towards developing a framework for cooperation, acknowledging the success which resulted in the convention being organised in Yunnan province. The future events (both countries) in the field of education, sports or cultural exchange will be inspired by the TAAI Convention. Hence the two destinations would promote culture, education, wedding, sports tourism and enhance visa facilitation services as part of the MoU,” said Li Bijian, Minister-Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi.

India has emerged as an important source market for China, while China is the potential market to send travellers to India. Between India and China, there is a tourist market which is broad enough for both the sides to explore, added the Vice Governor of Yunnan Province. 

During the convention, the second TAAI golf tournament was held at Kunming Dianchi Lake View Golf Club with two teams – comprising players from India and China – who vied for the Sino-India TAAI Uni-Globe Golf Cup. 

Yunnan offers a host of tourist attractions which include the Stone Forest – a notable set of limestone formations in Shilin Yi Autonomous County; Dianchi Lake – also known as Kunming Lake; Yuantong Temple - the most famous Buddhist temple in Kunming; Green lake park - an urban park in Kunming which comprises a group of four small sub-lakes linked by bridges in the traditional style among others.

The city is well-connected from Delhi with a four-hour flight and two-and-a-half-hour flight from Kolkata through Thai Airways, Shandong Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines. 

He Ligui, Director General, Department of Culture and Tourism of Yunnan Province said that Yunnan, with the most nationalities in the country, has 26 nationalities as a whole and offers a lot of scenic beauty, natural wonders and excellent climate, is now focusing on Indian tourists. “There are plans to launch more flights to Kolkata and other Indian cities to boost the two-way flow of tourists,” he said.

Li Bijian also called for an increase in the inflow of Chinese tourists to India, saying there is a need for more Mandarin-fluent Indian guides holding official permits. “Though there are many five-star and four-star hotels in India, there are very limited business hotels in India. Also, there should be more Chinese restaurants in places like Kerala, Goa, Varanasi, and Bodh Gaya among others,” Li said.

Speaking about the achievements, Kumar said that there is a need to be a paradigm-buster in order to promote and discuss more possibilities within the region. 

The three-day convention was held at the luxurious Intercontinental Hotel in Kunming which aptly promoted the convention’s theme of luxury tourism. 

The convention saw nearly 500 delegates from India including travel agents, trade specialists and industry veterans to attend and explore the bilateral trade and tourism opportunities. An array of global and national speakers enthralled the delegates with interactive presentations by Li Bijian, DCM and minister counsellor, Embassy of China, Delhi; Lavonne Wittman, President, SKAL International; John Koldowski, professor & foreign expert in tourism; George Cao, co-founder & CEO, Dragon Trail Interactive; Kapil Bhatia, Executive Chairman, InterGlobe Enterprises Limited; Kapil Kaul, CEO, India & the Middle-East, CAPA, among others. 

On the sidelines of the convention, Lufthansa City Center (LCC), a travel agency franchise network which is part of the German Lufthansa Group, signed its first ‘Premium LCC Member’ in India under LCC Concept Diversification Program with Kolkata-based Travels & Rentals. As per the new partnership, Travels & Rentals will act as the ‘hub agency’ to run the global program and expand LCC member agency network in India.  LCC Concept Diversification Program is a new scheme offering new categories of membership participation into LCC network for aspiring travel agencies which comprise LCC Affiliates and LCC Travel Consultants. 

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