What kind of feedback have you had from Middle East travellers?
We have just begun promoting Hangzhou in this market because the countries around the Middle East are not a traditional source country, but we understand the economy here is strong and the diversified culture is brilliant.
More so, we have similar Islamic and Muslim cultures in China and so believe that we are in a position to start something new, and thus decided to participate for the first time at Arabian Travel Market. This year we want to reach out to the trade and visitors and educate them about our city. As the next step we will work with the operators and consulting firms and find the right route to get an access to this market.
What is your USP to this market?
Hangzhou city has a very rich history and culture. It is an ancient city and offers a completely new experience in culture. There is a lot of difference in culture and lifestyle making it attractive for tourists looking for something new. Our strongest selling point is the mystery of Oriental heritage and natural beauty.
Who are your current source markets?
Currently we see inbound tourists from neighbouring countries like Japan, Korea and some regions like Hong Kong. We also see a large number of visitors from Europe. Together we get about two million inbound overnight stays in Hangzhou. Roughly 60 percent is from the Asian countries. This region is still very small in numbers but we hope to see an increase in the near future.
Is the infrastructure of the city ready for more visitor arrivals?
In Hangzhou we have 250 star hotels, of which we have 25 to 30 four and five star hotels. So, we believe we are adequately positioned for more visitors. Most of our hotels can accommodate the needs of Arab travellers with facilities like halal food and connecting rooms for families. We were recently awarded China’s best tourism destination by UNWTO. We are also members of PATA and they will bring a delegation to Hangzhou in 2009. We work closely with a regional organization called the Tourist Promotion Organisation for Asia-Pacific countries.
Are there plans to talk to regional airlines to speak about direct flight connections?
Hangzhou has an international airport and we have direct connections to Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. We have daily flights connecting Beijing and Hangzhou as well as convenient access to Shanghai. Our inbound tourists usually use these connections to visit Hangzhou. But yes, when we see a strong increase in visitor arrivals from the Middle East region, we will speak to regional carriers here.