The boom of Chinese outbound tourism is expected to benefit Tonga in the southern Pacific Ocean, as more Chinese tourists and travel service providers are showing an interest in the islands.
At the invitation of King Tupou VI of Tonga, Li Jinzao, head of the China National Tourism Administration, attended the monarch's coronation on July 4 as the special envoy of President Xi Jinping.
During the trip, the CNTA signed a memorandum of understanding of cooperation with the Tonga tourism authority.
According to the CNTA's website, the memorandum contains plans for this year through 2020 in five fields: data and information exchange, marketing, industry cooperation, personnel training and cooperation under the framework of international organizations.
Hundreds of travel agencies from China have shown their interest in expanding their business to Tonga. The first group of 10 travel service providers based in Shanghai has just finished a trip to Tonga, with a second group going there at the end of the month.
"Tonga has many islands with a lot of tourism resources. Tourism is an important industry, and they welcome Chinese tourists," said Wang Chunfeng, vice-president of Beijing UTS International Travel Service Co. "A tour of the islands is gaining popularity among Chinese tourists. The Tonga tourism market has great potential."
However, Wang said, no major travel agencies provide specially designed holidays to Tonga for Chinese tourists.
"I plan to contact more local travel agencies and hotels to design a travel route with market potential this time," added Wang.
China has the world's largest number of tourists traveling abroad. Data from the CNTA show that last year, the number of Chinese tourists traveling outside China increased by 19.5 percent over 2013 to 109 million, topping a threshold of 100 million for the first time. This number was nearly 13 times the level of outbound tourism in 1998.
In 2013, Chinese tourists spent $129 billion abroad, more than any other source market in the world, the UN World Tourism Organization said.
Shi Peihua, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said tourism could play a positive role in building state-to-state relations.