CHINA: China and India have created "golden opportunities" for tourism with the rapid economic progress and a fast growing middle-class, a top Chinese official said here, as the country's picturesque southwestern Yunnan Province launched initiatives to woo more Indian tourists.
China, one of the world's top receivers of international tourists, has been promoting Yunnan as a paradise for Indian travellers, highlighting its proximity to the country, dramatic landscape and breathtaking views.
The efforts by the provincial government came months after President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held their first informal summit in central China's Wuhan city where they agreed to strengthen people-to-people exchanges.
Kunming, also known as 'the city of eternal spring' due to its spring-like weather, ideal to escape the summer and the frozen winter, is the capital city of the country's most ethnically diverse Yunnan Province.
To attract a large number of tourists from India, the Yunnan Provincial Tourism Development Commission signed an agreement with the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) and a three-day convention 'Tourism Beyond Boundaries' was held here in which nearly 500 delegates from India explored the tourism opportunities between the province and India.
According to Li Malin, Vice Governor of Yunnan Province, "both China and India are developing countries with rapid economic development, increased living standards of the people and a fast growing middle-class which have created golden opportunities for tourism development".
"India has emerged as an important source market for China, while China is the potential market to send travellers to India," she said.
Between India and China, there is a tourist market which is broad enough for both the sides to explore, Li said.
"Social and people-to-people exchanges with tourism included as one of its integral components play an important part in enhancing relations between India and China," Li said.
According to Kunming-based tourist guide Maria, 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.
Kunming is one of the most beautiful cities of China. It is also known as 'the flower city' as its unique weather conditions allow it to grow flowers across the year.
"The city's proximity to India, just a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Kolkata and a four-hour flight from New Delhi, makes it a must-visit tourist place for Indians looking to spend their vacations abroad," Maria said.
Li Malin said that her appreciation goes to those who are long committed in supporting and promoting cooperation between India and China, specially between India and Yunnan Province.
Yunnan is one of the most advantageous provinces in China, blessed with abundant tourism resources and endowments.
In 2017, the Yunnan Province received a total of 573 million domestic and foreign tourists, raking in a total revenue of 692.2 billion yuan (USD 101.1 billion), Li said.
In April in Wuhan, President Xi pointed out that China and India should jointly carry out comprehensive cooperation plans between the two countries and promote more extensive social and people-to-people exchanges, she said.
"Prime Minister Modi responded that the two sides should promote people-to-people friendship and raise bilateral relations to a new level," Li said.
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.
Yunnan, which offers a lot of scenic beauty, natural wonders and excellent climate, is now focusing on Indian tourists, He told a group of visiting Indian journalists.
"There are plans to launch more flights to Kolkata and other Indian cities to boost two-way flow of tourists," He said.
Li Bijian, Minister-Counselor of the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, said Yunnan offers great tourism opportunities to Indians with its karst landscapes, beautiful mountains, red lands, dramatic landscape and breathtaking views.
"We think that India and China are the largest neighbours, the largest developing countries and the largest emerging economies.
"The decisions taken during the Wuhan summit are described as the Wuhan Spirit by your side while our side calls its Wuhan Consensus," Li said.
He 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.
President of TAAI Sunil Kumar said that TAAI is a vehicle for the governments to sit and ride on if they are seeking to promote a particular destination for tourism.
"Yunnan will be the most important household destination for every travel agency which is associated with TAAI. The tourists' arrival in Yunnan will rise significantly," he said.
Kumar said that there are several yoga institutes in Kunming and Yunnan.
The visibility of Indians in the province will go up in the days to come.