10 August 2011
The number of Chinese tourists travelling to other countries is 48 million this year and could reach 100 million by 2020, according to World Tourism Organisation forecasts. Cameroon might be hosting a good share of these tourists after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, between both countries on facilitating the coming of Chinese tourists travelling in groups to the Cameroonian destination.
Breaking the news to pressmen yesterday, Wednesday August 10, the Minister of Tourism, El Hadj Baba Hamadou, said the MoU was one of the agreements signed during President Paul Biya's recent official visit to the People's Republic of China from July 20 to 22. In the presence of the Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma, and a host of senior staff of the ministry, Baba Hamadou said the MoU marked a new era after China approved Cameroon as a tourism destination for Chinese tourists in 2006. "It falls in line with the ambition of government to conquer new tourist markets in Asia and America as expressed in the national strategy to relaunch tourism outlined and adopted in 2005," he explained.
On the terms of the MoU that was signed on behalf of China by the National Tourism Administration, Baba Hamadou said the agreement provides for the selection of travel agencies on both sides, signing of collaboration agreements between the agencies, exchange of information on both countries and the designation of group coordinators and tourist guides. "After putting this in place, then, visits will begin," he added.
Visibly satisfied, Baba Hamadou later outlined the advantages of the MoU to his audience. China ranked as fourth world tourist destination in 2010 behind the United States of America, Spain and France. Boasting 555 million tourists on Chinese territory alone and 48 million tourists travelling abroad in 2010, Baba Hamadou attributed China's might in tourism to the people's ingenuity, millennium history and interesting places such as the Tiananmen Square and the 5,000-km long China Great Wall as well as the organisation of big events such as the Summer Olympic Games in 2008 and the Expo-Shanghai International Trade Fair in 2010. Furthermore, the Chinese government has instituted a thirteenth salary to workers and encourages them to travel for holidays. Seeking to join Kenya and South Africa as Chinese favourite destinations in Africa, the Cameroonian government organised two familiarisation visits to Cameroon by Chinese journalists and media owners.
"They showed preference for ecotourism and picturesque tourism," said Baba Hamadou before reiterating that his ministry will use its share of the World Bank's recent FCFA 15 billion grant to invest in ecotourism and cultural tourism. Besides boosting sales in airline tickets, works of art as well as demand for hotel and restaurant services, the coming of Chinese tourists, Baba Hamadou hoped, will open avenues for partnerships with Chinese investors, especially in the area of infrastructure.