There’s no question that movies and TV shows influence Chinese travel preferences. In fact, many Chinese tourism success stories can be attributed to the influence of Chinese media productions. Perhaps most famously, blockbuster Somewhere Only We Know set in Prague helped elevate Czechia to become one of the most popular Chinese tourist destinations in Europe—even receiving more visitors than the United Kingdom.
As such, it should perhaps not come as a surprise that destinations and tourism businesses around the world are vying for Chinese media productions to boost popularity among Chinese consumers. For example, Chinese media earlier this week reported that the Danish island of Funen hopes to see a boost in Chinese visitation owing to Chinese movies and TV shows set on the island.
Movies and TV shows have proven to influence Chinese travel behavior
But it’s not just destinations. Tourism businesses and even entire tourism subsectors are betting on the influencing power of Chinese media productions. As Jing Travel previously reported, China’s struggling cruise industry also has hopes for an upcoming TV production: One Boat, One World—a “patriotic” TV drama set on a cruise ship. If the show will prove enough to turn the tides for China’s now shrinking cruise industry remains to be seen.
The latest partnership along these lines to be announced is that between 2018 China-EU Tourism Year media partners China Global Television Network (CGTN; formerly known as CCTV-NEWS, CCTV-9, and CCTV English International) and Lyon-based Euronews.
The China-EU Tourism Year’s media partners are entering a media partnership
Framed as a result of each media organization’s partnership with the ongoing China-EU Tourism Year, CGTN and Euronews have committed to “highlight some of the most interesting destinations in Europe and China” through television programming.
Under the memorandum of understanding signed by the two parties, Euronews and CGTN will each produce “special” 25-minute long monthly programs that showcase destinations in China and Europe. According to the companies’ announcement, the programs will showcase “some of the best cities, coastlines, mountains and culture in Europe and China” as well as “off-the-beaten track places.”
The two networks want to promote “off-the-beaten track places” in China and Europe
“I am proud to cooperate with CGTN; our joint initiative contributes to the aim of the [2018 China-EU Tourism Year] for a unique cross-cultural exchange that allows Europeans to explore the magnificence of China and Chinese to discover the richness of our continent,” Euronews CEO Michael Peters said in a press statement.
While the ambition to jointly promote European destinations in China and Chinese destinations in Europe is laudable, particularly in the context of the China-EU Tourism Year, the true impact of the upcoming TV programs on Chinese tourism flows is questionable.
Reaching a Chinese audience through TV channels intended for a foreign audience is an odd choice
Critically, the partnership is explicitly between CGTN and Euronews; not CGTN’s state-owned parent company CCTV. The reason this matters is because CGTN is a group of international channels broadcast in international languages such as English, Russian, and Arabic—not Chinese. As such CGTN is perhaps best compared to channels (and soft power initiatives) such as Japan’s NHK World, Qatar’s Al Jazeera, and Russia’s RT.
In other words, it’s questionable if the programming intended to promote travel in Europe to Chinese consumers will reach Chinese consumers at all. CGTN’s intended audience is very much non-Chinese, but needless to say, the intended targets of the European Union’s China tourism ambitions are very much Chinese.
CGTN may not reach Chinese consumers, but Euronews reaches European consumers
While the reach of the programming is highly questionable for the Europeans, the same can’t be said for China. Euronews reaches 430 million households around the world, and—critically—170 million European households. China, a somewhat unpopular destination for foreign tourists, could certainly use the spotlight.
Of course, “free” spotlight on European airwaves doesn’t solve China’s fundamental issues in terms of inbound travel such as visa policy and inconvenient internet censorship. “Enjoy a smooth layover in China’s most Instagram-friendly city, Chongqing,” the tile of a CGTN reportage read yesterday. That would be all good and well if it wasn’t for Instagram being banned in China, including in Chongqing.
Instagrammable destinations in China doesn’t solve tourists’ Instagram problems in China
In the end, it looks like CGTN and Euronews’s odd partnership will do little to boost tourism to either China or Europe. Europe will gain extremely limited exposure to Chinese consumers, and CGTN’s tone-deaf travel reporting will inevitably fail to convince Euronews’ viewers to go to the most Instagram-friendly destination where Instagram is banned and visa policy remains unwelcoming.