During the just ended BRICS Summit in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province, how to strengthen relations between the five member countries was one of the top concerns. [Special coverage]
While economic connections often reveal a bigger picture of the relationship between governments and enterprises, tourism is an excellent barometer of how well the connections between countries are among common civilians.
According to statistics released by Airbnb, an online marketplace and hospitality service, over the past decade 4.1 million registered tourists traveled among the five nations. From August 2016 to July 2017, the number of Chinese tourists visiting other BRICS nations doubled, and currently accounts for 43 percent of tourists traveling among the five countries.
For example, in 2016, the number of visits between China and Russia reached 3.27 million, among which Russia to China visits amounted to 1.97 million, a 24.9 percent year-on-year increase, meaning it has the sixth largest number of visitors to China.
South Africa, though farther away from China compared to other member countries, also saw in increase of Chinese visitors. According to data from the tourism department of South Africa, in 2016 Chinese travelers made more than 117,000 trips to South Africa, a 38 percent increase from the previous year.
The blossom in tourism should be attributed to better cooperation among BRICS countries, such as launching a tourism year and the BRICS Convention on Tourism.
The BRICS Convention on Tourism was held in Khajuraho, a renowned tourist site in India, September 1-2, 2016. More than 100 representatives from China, India, South Africa and Russia took part in the convention, during which time, the tourism development of each country was introduced and the establishment of mutually beneficial tourism relationships among member countries was discussed.
Ever since China launched its Tourism Year of Russia in 2012 and Russia launched its Tourism Year of China in 2013, the two nations' tourism institutions have pushed to establish deeper cooperation, such as simplifying the process for getting visas. In 2015, the China National Tourism Administration and Russian Federation of Tourism co-organized a series of red tourism activities, the hometown of Chairman Mao Zedong, Xiangtan city, and the hometown of Vladimir Lenin, Ulyanovsk became sister cities, and the two governments jointly organized the establishment of 10 tourism routes.
"Tourism is the simplest and most direct diplomatic method to build bridges between China and other BRICS countries, as well as the rest of the world. It is also creates bonds that lead to harmonious relationships among people from different nations," Sun Jie, CEO of travel service provider Ctrip, said in an interview with eastday.com, adding that BRICS countries are becoming popular tourism destinations for Chinese tourists.
Besides these countries' rich tourism resources, other major reasons behind the increase in tourists from China include convenience in getting visas and availability of flights, according to Sun.
Sun predicted that the coming decade will see explosive growth in China's outbound tourism, as currently less than 10 percent of Chinese have passports.
According to a report from CCTV4, China and Brazil are expected to sign an agreement this month establishing new five-year multiple entry visas for Brazilians and Chinese businessmen and tourists.