Tourism exchange and cooperation was at the center of a memorandum signed between Chinese provinces and Italian regions on Friday here at the China Pavilion of Expo Milano 2015.
Provincial representatives of Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Henan, Shandong and Shanghai signed the memorandum with those of 10 major regions of Italy including Lombardy, whose capital is Milan, Tuscany and Sicily.
"Italy is an important strategic partner of China," Vice Director of Department of Tourism Promotion and International Liaison of China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) Fan Wenming said in his address to the signing ceremony.
"This year the two countries celebrate the 45th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties and this is also the year of the ongoing world exposition in Milan," he noted.
The memorandum includes policies to encourage the interactions among peoples, provide mutual supports, organize staff trainings and reinforce new media applications in various fields.
Friday's signing was connected to the "Belt and Road" initiatives introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping to boost transport infrastructure building, investment and trade facilitation, financial cooperation and cultural exchanges between Asia, home of the second largest economy in the world China, and Europe.
"Italy is the convergence point between the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Thus the Sino-Italian cooperation in the construction of One Belt, One Road will be a reference for all countries along the route," Fan pointed out.
In 2014, the number of Chinese tourists traveling abroad increased by 19.5 percent year on year to 109 million, topping a threshold of 100 million for the first time in history, according to CNTA.
Onofrio Cutaia, Director General for tourism policies of the Italian Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MIBACT), said "The rise of China and connected demand for tourism arouse great expectations."
"The strong increase of outbound tourism has made China a great exporter of tourists," he added.
Cutaia stressed the role of tourism in the global economy as a key driver for investments and employment, and promoter for industrial growth.
In today's globalized and technological world, he said, tourism is a multifaceted phenomenon with huge potential of development.
For this reason, he underlined, Italy, the country with highest number of UNESCO world culture sites besides to more than 6,000 palaces and castles and nearly 4,000 protected natural areas, cannot miss the opportunity to strengthen tourism relations with China by "easing visa policies, offering convenient and diversified solutions, and becoming familiar with the needs of Chinese tourists."
During this week, a Chinese delegation of heads of tourism departments and businesses from 13 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities staged events themed on the Silk Road and Beauty of China in Rome and Milan to present tourism resources in an all-round way to Italy.