With Lebanon looking to diversify its tourism market away from tourists from the GCC region, China seems to be an obvious choice. According to the China Tourism Research Institute, 120 million Chinese travelled abroad in 2015 alone, spending approximately $104.5 billion.
Although the Chinese embassy in Lebanon was unable to provide us with figures regarding how many of its nationals visited Lebanon, it is safe to assume that the number is rather low. Therefore, it is clearly a market worth tapping into and developing.
Executive corresponded with Ambassador Wang Kejian via e-mail to discuss ways to grow economic and touristic relations between the two countries.
E Is there an aim or expectation to further intensify economic relations between China and Lebanon in 2017?
This year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Lebanon. Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1971, the economic and trade relations between our two countries have made considerable headway in all fields.
In 2017, I sincerely hope that our bilateral trade and investment will enjoy steady and healthy development, and that our practical cooperation in finance, communication, energy and infrastructure will be further strengthened as well.
E How aware are the Chinese of Lebanon as a tourism destination? Is Lebanon marketed as a destination in China among travel agencies and such?
In 2008, China and Lebanon signed a memorandum of understanding on tourism cooperation. Amity between the people of both countries holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. Mutual visit[s] can help the two peoples learn more about each other. With the growing friendship between them, I believe that there will be more and more Chinese tourists coming to Lebanon.
E What could the Lebanese public and private sectors do to market Lebanon as a tourism destination to the Chinese market? What elements/attractions should be highlighted?
To know more about each other is the first step. By enhancing the promotion of various tourism sites and projects, Lebanon is surely going to attract more Chinese travel agencies and tourists.
E What needs to be improved in Lebanon in terms of tourism infrastructure to make it a more appealing destination to Chinese travellers? Or is it merely an issue of lack of awareness and marketing?
Transportation is of vital importance to tourism infrastructure. Convenient transportation would make the experience better for tourists. Additionally, more Chinese-speaking tour guides, more Chinese restaurants, better security services and diversified Middle East region tour packages that include Lebanon will also make this country more attractive to Chinese tourists.
E In terms of the retail sector, what could be improved to make it more attractive to tourists from China when they visit Lebanon?
Chinese tourists and their purchasing power have ranked number one in the world since 2013. For them, shopping is an important part in their travel agenda, especially for high-end and exotic culture products. Shopping occupies a large proportion of their overall time. Other than that, recreation and entertainment are also potential areas to attract Chinese tourists’ consumption.
E Are there any new areas where you see collaboration, FDI, or trade potential?
With [the] political situation and security environment getting better, I think there will be more Chinese companies doing business with Lebanese companies. We also welcome more Lebanese companies to invest in China.
E Does China see offshore Lebanon as a potential market for Chinese oil and gas service companies?
Energy cooperation is an important part of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. China’s oil and gas enterprises keep tracking news of Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas development and they will follow up accordingly.