Reporter Journal / Chang Jun

Chinese treasure the experiences, friendships that travel provides

By Chang Jun (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-10-17 11:09

Chinese believe travel and meeting with different people can expand one's vision and improve understanding and trust. That long-held belief is exemplified in the Chinese saying, "It's better to travel 10,000 miles than to read 1,000 books."

Some of the travel stories, such as President Xi Jinping's first visit to Iowa in May 1985 as the party secretary in Zhengding county, Hebei province, have become deeds praised far and wide through word of mouth.

Heading a five-member delegation to investigate corn processing in the American agriculture state, Xi lived in the bedroom of the son of a local family in Muscatine, Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak, and joined them for "big breakfasts with coffee and tea every day during their stay," as recalled Eleanor. "They were lovely and high-spirited young people, and we are deeply impressed by Xi, with his modesty and friendliness."

Xi returned to Iowa in February 2012 as the vice-president of China to continue the friendship. This time, he went to farms, joined a local resident's birthday party and picnicked on a boat.

Xi told Americans, "I feel so great to see my old friends in Muscatine after 27 years. I remember the old days because you are my first American friends, and the short stay here helped me shape a general picture about the US."

How sweet the experience was, so valuable as well! It brings people of different backgrounds closer and creates memories to be cherished for a lifetime regardless of ideological differences.

In order to strengthen mutual understanding and people-to-people exchanges between the US and China, China's tourism industry watchdog and practitioners throughout the country vowed to initiate more fun-filled programs and provide tailored services for the American general public.

Last week, the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) led a delegation of 80 from 18 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China to continue their "Beautiful China - World Heritage Tourism Promotion Event" in North America, and visited San Francisco on Saturday.

At the Asian Art Museum in downtown San Francisco, big pictures capturing the allure of China's 52 UNESCO World Heritage sites hang along the aisle. Booths set up around the hallway and staff from the 18 areas introduced museum patrons to China's local attractions.

"From the iconic Great Wall in Beijing to Fujian Province's Kulangsu Settlement, the newest 2017 addition to UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, China boasts a long list of must-see attractions," said Wang Xiaofeng, vice-chairman of the CNTA at his speech.

Kulangsu, or better known as Gulangyu Island in China, is a pedestrian-only isle in Xiamen, Fujian province. It is renowned for its winding seashore, high density of forest and grassland and cluster of European-style mansions and villas.

Luo Linquan, consul general of China's Consulate General in San Francisco, said tourism is an effective way to expand the friendship between China and the United States, adding that about 5.32 million people from both countries visited the other in 2016, up 12 percent over the previous year.

"The US has now become China's third-largest source of tourists, with an average 2.1 million people visiting China annually," he said.

More than 3 million Chinese tourists visited the United States in 2016, making it the fourth-largest destination market of China, Luo added.

Bill Knickerbocker, president of Walnut Creek, California-based travel agency the Executive Ventures, said China might need to prepare more specialized programs for American tourists.

"My clients complained that they don't want to see the big threes - Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou - any longer. Anything that is really exciting. For example, could the local cities provide a 'one day with the locals' trip?"

He suggested agencies develop new travel itineraries for destinations and activities that speak directly to American interests, including thematic itineraries such as archeological expeditions and the great outdoors.

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