African governments are relaxing visa requirements for Chinese nationals and offering encouraging policies as a means to attract more Chinese tourists to visit, to stay longer and to spend more.
China is now the world's top tourism source market with 131 million outbound tourists in 2017.
"Chinese tourists are estimated to travel 700 million times in the next five years, which offers a huge business opportunity for countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, not only in their tourism industry but also tourism-related businesses," said Dorothy Tembo, executive deputy director of the International Trade Centre, at a recent industry forum during the fifth China Beijing International Fair for Trade in Services.
Tunisia, a North African country involved in China's Belt and Road Initiative, has allowed Chinese passport holders visa-free access since February in 2017. The policy prompted 240 percent year-on-year growth in Chinese tourists in the following six months.
"Tourism, as a traditional category of service trade, has the potential to become an important means for many developing countries to carry out primitive accumulation that may lead to an economic boom," said Long Yongtu, consultant at China Association of Trade in Services.
Proposed in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to boost regional trade and infrastructure networks, by better connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, similar to the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
"As more trade and cooperation are launched under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, more Chinese people are gaining a better understanding of the African continent and it is becoming a top travel destination for some tourists," said Wang Zhucai, deputy director of the economic cooperation department at China-Africa Industrial Forum, an organization seeking to boost mutual trade.
China is now one of Kenya's best-performing tourism source markets, with overall 42.9 percent growth since 2011, according to Business Daily.
Earlier this May, Stanbic Bank Kenya Ltd and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd launched a joint program to offer ICBC cardholders special rewards and discounts when they travel in Kenya.
"After all, Africa has the world's most diverse terrain, with spectacular sights and abundant wildlife. People will love it once they know it better," Wang said.
Wang added that many African countries are taking proactive steps to expand the market in the interests of local economic growth.
"Many hotel and restaurant projects are under construction, hoping to boost local tourism by providing better accommodation," Wang said.