Travel Talk with Ludivine Destrée, Chair of ETC’s China Operations Group

International, Interview, Tourism
Ms Ludivine Destrée, Chair of ETC´s China Operations Group and Wallonie Bruxelles Tourisme Beijing Representative
Ms Ludivine Destrée, Chair of ET’s China Operations Group

With the growing potential of tourism market in China, the European Travel Commission also wants to be the part of this growth story. The Commission has already set up its Operations Group (OG) in China. The purpose of which is to bring together the European tourist offices and provide guidance on the marketing activities. In order to know more about the positioning of ETC in China and its partnership with ITB China, we had an interaction with Ms Ludivine Destrée, Chair of ETC´s China Operations Group and Wallonie Bruxelles Tourisme Beijing Representative.

Q1. Can you tell us about the brand ETC? 

The European Travel Commission is the association of National Tourism Organisations in Europe. It was created in 1948 to promote inbound travel to Europe from overseas markets. Its members currently include 33 NTOs, among them 8 from outside the European Union, as well as 10 private organizations.

Q2. How important is Chinese market for you and what are you doing to establish a strong footing here?

China remains one of the most significant growth markets of the future. It is not by chance that China is becoming one of the main source markets with huge growth potential for European Tourism. Especially now with 2018 being designated EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY), this year witnesses a strong focus on the EU-China relations. The role of ETC’s Operations Group (OG) in China is of great value for the organisation. The Operations Group is ETC’s representative body in China, bringing together the European tourist offices in the market. The purpose of the OG is to provide guidance on the marketing activities of the ETC in China.

Q3. What are the key steps ETC is taking to cater the demands of the Chinese travellers to Europe? 

Besides various tailored marketing and promotion activities targeting both travel trade and end-consumers in China, there are numerous initiatives and actions carried out by different industries in the sector and destinations. The focus will be on creating more personalized travel products for Chinese travellers as well as on immersive local experiences. Partnerships with local Chinese tourism agencies are key.

ETC will also be facilitating European businesses and partner destinations to make small but powerful adjustments to become “China-friendly”, such as providing information in Chinese, enabling Chinese payment solutions, helping them connect to the internet during their trips in Europe, ultimately resulting in Chinese travelers extending their comfort zone and offering them the best travel experience. Visa facilitation is also very high on the agenda and we expect that the EU-China Tourism Year will provide an incentive to make further progress on visa facilitation and connectivity between both markets, previously one of the main obstacles for Chinese outbound travel.

Q4. Can you tell us about the ETC’s partnership wit ITB China and how is it adding to your advantage? 

We were partner destination of ITB China last year and our partners were very satisfied with our participation. This year, we will have again a strong presence with a dedicated Europe pavilion hosting more than 30 European destinations and operators. We expect to build up new contacts and exchange ideas on the Chinese travel market with the broad travel industry during these intense days in Shanghai. In this regard, we are having a dedicated Panel Discussion in ITB China Conference to discuss challenges and opportunities of the EU-China Tourism Year and beyond.

Q5. Can you provide us some of the statics of Chinese travellers travelling to Europe and what are the key attractions for Chinese travellers in Europe?

China is the world’s largest travel market in terms of both outbound travel and expenditure. With a 14% share of the total Chinese outbound travel market, Europe saw a remarkable 16% increase in tourist arrivals from China in 2017, reaching record 13.4 million arrivals.

Chinese travellers are increasingly seeking authentic experiences during their travel to Europe. As Chinese travellers become more experienced, they also become more experience-seeking. Rather than joining tour groups, they are increasingly travelling independently, ditching the major tourism destinations and attractions for less exploited places and travel products. Many of them also see Europe as a single destination, visiting 3 to 4 countries per trip.

Q6. How is Europe connected to China and what further elopements are coming to strengthen these ties?  

The 2018 EU-China Tourism Year is a great opportunity for the European tourism industry to explore the Chinese market, but also learn how to attract Chinese visitors and offer them the best experience. On this occasion, ETC has developed a series of cooperative marketing programmes to support the promotion of European destinations and travel experiences in China. These programmes include a variety of activities, from B2B matchmaking events to FAM trips for operators and media. Participants in these cooperative marketing programmes will gain access to joint activities at European level that are not feasible on a single basis or that they would be challenged to do on their own leveraged by economies of scale and their European scope. We believe this is a win-win situation for European and Chinese business partners because not only does it open opportunities for trade and investment, but we are also laying the foundations for better cooperation and understanding of our respective industries.

Q7. ETC plays a key role in building and promoting Europe as a tourist destination, through the Destination Europe. What are the challenges and the perspectives?

Europe is the world’s foremost tourist destination, accounting for over half of global tourist arrivals and the largest share of international outbound traffic from all regions. However, Europe’s market share is eroding as a proportion of all global travel. ETC has developed the “Destination Europe” brand as part of a strategy to optimize Europe’s market positioning. By defining the continent’s unique selling points and brand identity, the “Destination Europe” brand is intended to create an effective umbrella for all ETC members while at the same time conveying their countries’ distinctive and individual characteristics.

It’s important, that in the coming years, we increase our impact and regain market share for the tourism industry in Europe. Therefore, Destination Europe will need a radical change in marketing approach to create more leverage. As we’re bound for more collaboration and co-creation as well, the new strategy will require a more horizontal and thematic approach, starting from the visitor’s perspective, interests and passions rather than the destination. This will allow ETC to create more value.

Q8. What is the scenario of MICE segment in Europe and what is the scope? 

The meetings industry continues to thrive while experiencing fastest growth in the tourism sector and thus generating millions of revenues. With new destinations entering the meetings, congress and conventions and incentives market, competition for market share in Europe and worldwide has become vigorous. The global MICE segment is still dominated by Europe and North America.

Q9. Besides China which are the other focus countries for ETC and what about Indian market

Besides China, ETC’s focus markets include the United States, Canada and Brazil. However, we are noticing strong growth prospects coming from other relevant markets such as India. Although a small market at present, Indian outbound travel holds a promise for future expansions as people become more affluent. Although current arrivals number from India are low in absolute terms, India will become increasingly more important as a source market for European destinations in the coming years.

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