BUENOS AIRES, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- Argentina is seeking to deepen its tourism relations with China, in order to facilitate mutual discovery and better understanding of each other, said Tourism Minister Gustavo Santos in an interview with Xinhua.
"China is the primary tourism market of the world while tourism is one of Argentina's main industries. For Argentina, developing tourism means creating jobs. Chinese tourists will be a great help in building a better country," said Santos.
"We want hundreds of thousands of Chinese tourists to start coming to Argentina. Tourism means knowledge, discovery, accepting diversity. It is a powerful tool for peace and human understanding," he added.
For Santos, both countries offer great variety. He explained how Argentina "has every climate, every landscape, diverse culture, fantastic nature, an extraordinary culture. From tango to football, wine, the great city of Buenos Aires, continental glacier, Antarctica with its penguins, the Puna grasslands, and the Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world."
These attractions "are here for our Chinese friends to come and discover them," he added.
MAKING IT EASIER
Argentina is also seeking to facilitate the arrival of Chinese visitors, amounting to 30,000 in 2015. In July, Argentina decided to allow Chinese tourists, with existing visas for the U.S. or the European Union, to enter the country and only needing to fill in an electronic travel form online.
"This will be important. We are making it easier for Chinese tourists to come here," commented the minister, adding that this goes along with events in the region. "Argentina has made a proposal to Brazil and Chile for a similar reciprocity of visas. That way, if a Chinese tourists has obtained a Brazilian visa, that will be recognized in our country and no other visa will be needed. The same with Chile."
Santos also explained that Argentina is working with different airlines to improve connectivity. For example, the Argentinean carrier Aerolineas Argentinas is part of the SkyTeam alliance with China Southern and China Eastern. Furthermore, Air China already has flights to Sao Paulo, which Argentina wants to take advantage of."
In terms of government exchanges, Santos highlighted that Argentinean Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra had met with Li Jinzao, chairman of the China National Tourism Administration, in May.
"We found that the Chinese are wonderful to make dialogue with. We got on very well and had a very good exchange," he related.
In terms of concrete objectives, Santos said that "in the medium term, we want to see five to ten times the flow of tourists we have today."
Santos recalled that "China has become the biggest emitter of tourists, 120 million tourists travelled abroad in 2015. Argentina represents a very attractive destination for China, mainly for the diversity of its landscapes, nature and climate."
"We have also noted in the Chinese market a strong attraction for Antarctica, for the tango and the culture of Buenos Aires. Besides, that (football star Lionel) Messi was part of advertising for a Chinese communications company (WeChat) is not nothing," he mentioned.
"The understanding between Argentina and China will certainly also include football, as a type of specific tourism. Holding clinics for Chinese footballers and helping China to rapidly become a football power can also be a goal for our bilateral relations," envisioned Santos.
"I am convinced that, in this country, Chinese tourists will find one of their best options for a long trip," he remarked.
For Santos, "word of mouth will cause many of their friends to rapidly come to Argentina. Today, we have around 30,000 Chinese tourists a year, Argentina wants many more, due to the variety of products, of landscapes and culture we can offer."
"If one activity can integrate the Chinese and Argentinean people, it is tourism," he assured.