Kunming (China), Dec 4 : The southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan has got down to actively wooing Indian tourists, the inflow of whom has been limited till now, showcasing its scenic beauty, natural wonders and salubrious climate.
With Yunnan's capital Kunming hosting the 65th convention of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI) last week, Director General of Yunnan Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism He Ligui said that his office is now focusing on Indian tourists.
"Yunnan is very close to India, particularly to northeastern India," He said in an interaction with a group of visiting Indian journalists here.
"Indian tourist flow to Yunnan has been very limited but now we are focusing on this," he added.
Kunming is just a four-hour flight away from Delhi and two-and-a-half-hour flight from Kolkata.
Stating that India and China are entering a "golden period" of tourism, He said: "India has become a very important source country for tourism in China and China too has become so for India -- and Yunnan would like to play a leading role in this."
Li Bijian, Minister in the Chinese Embassy in India, said that this is coming in the backdrop of the informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in China in April this year during which the two leaders agreed to enhance people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
"We think that India and China are the largest neighbours, the largest developing countries and the largest emerging economies," Li said.
"The decisions taken during the Wuhan summit are described as the Wuhan Spirit by your side while our side calls its Wuhan Consensus."
Stating that two-way exchange of people stands around 1.08 million people annually, which is very low, Li said: "Educational, sports and cultural tourism are what we are looking."
To increase the inflow of Chinese tourists to India, he said that there should be more Mandarin-fluent Indian guides holding official permits.
"Though there are many five-star and four-star hotels in India, there are very limited business hotels in India," Li said.
"Also, there should be more Chinese restaurants in places like Kerala, Goa, Varanasi and Bodh Gaya."
According to He, there are plans to launch more flights to Kolkata and other Indian cities to boost two-way flow of tourists.
Stating that Yunnan is expecting around 700 million tourists this year, he said: "In the first 10 months, the number has touched 601 million, out of which 595 million were domestic tourists and the rest seven million were from neighbouring countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore. Yunnan is earning around 700 billion yuan (over $100 billion) annually through tourism, making it a strategic pillar of the provincial economy."
Extolling what Yunnan has to offer to tourists, He said that the province is a great variety of weather -- "not too hot in summer and not too cold in winter" -- due to its unique geographical location.
"Kunming enjoys spring-like weather throughout the year," he said.
Yunnan is home to 26 ethnic Chinese groups with a population of over 47 million.
Stating that Yunnan has become a very important tourism destination in China, He said that the province now has 856 star-rated hotels, 958 travel agents and 65 tourist bus companies.
The Yunnan official also said that a mobile app has also been developed to help people travelling in Yunnan.
"The app was launched on October 1 and we are working to further develop it," he said. "We will make better use of WeChat, Facebook and Google to boost tourism in Yunnan."
He also stated that Yunnan is a very important region for Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as it is the only province that can link China with South Asia and Southeast Asia.
(Aroonim Bhuyan visited China at the invitation of the Chinese Embassy in India. He can be contacted at email@example.com)