The EU-China Year of Tourism is coming to close, but that doesn’t mean that the European Union is done with high-profile promotional efforts. The latest campaign associated with the EU-China Year of Tourism is the World Heritage Journeys. The campaign, a collaboration between the UNESCO and National Geographic and funded in part by the EU, seeks to inform potential tourists traveling to Europe of the historical and cultural sites all over Europe and promotes four, multi-country itineraries for visitors: Ancient Europe, Romantic Europe, Royal Europe, and Underground Europe. Ostensibly, the campaign is targeted at a wide range of source markets, but UNESCO made it clear it the initial announcement that Chinese tourists are especially important to the project.

“World Heritage Journeys will also play a key role in attracting Chinese visitors to Europe for the 2018 EU/China Tourism Year, an initiative led by the European Commission and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the People’s Republic of China in collaboration with the European Travel Commission (ETC).”

Each suggested itinerary includes a variety of destinations that will bring travelers all across the EU, with descriptions of the relevant World Heritage Sites that can be visited. For example, the Ancient Europe itinerary includes Tarragona, Spain; Pont du Gard outside of Avignon, France; Epidaurus, Greece; Olympia, Greece; Trier, Germany; Aquileia, Italy; Nessebar, Bulgaria; and Stari Grad Plain, Croatia. The itineraries on the interactive site are available in Simplified Chinese, English, and French.

The stops on the itinerary allow tourists to view some of the most important Greco-Roman ancient sites in Europe. The visit to the Pont du Gard, for example, includes not only the opportunity to see the engineering prowess of the ancient Romans and their aqueducts, but also a visit to a modern museum that details the sites history and development. Most of the destinations feature an opportunity to explore some of Europe’s best art and history museums, like National Archaeological Museum of Villa Cassis in Aquelia, Italy. Aquelia was one the great urban centers of the Late Roman Empire, with some of the best preserved Roman art and architecture in the world.

The homepage for UNESCO’s “Ancient Europe” World Heritage Journey itinerary. Photo: UNESCO World Heritage Centre

The project could help fill an important gap in the available travel information on less-known European destinations in the Chinese market. While Chinese tourists are becoming savvier and more interested in cultural and historical tourism, there is often a lack of information and guides in Chinese about long-haul destinations. Shopping and tour groups are as important as they have ever been among Chinese tourists, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a large number of Chinese tourists hoping to get more profound cultural encounters through travel. These UNESCO itineraries serve as a potentially useful means of helping these Chinese tourists achieve their goal of getting more out of travel.

However, if the project has a fault, it is the fact that the guides are not available via WeChat. The site does include an option to “share” the itineraries, but options for Weibo, WeChat, or other Chinese platforms is not available.

WeChat is becoming an increasingly robust platform for travel information, in part because of the introduction of mini program city guides. The interactive guides, launched and perused directly through the WeChat messaging and social media app, contain information on dining, shopping, and sightseeing for a select number of destinations around the world. A similar platform could work very well for the UNESCO World Heritage Journeys. Being available via WeChat would have the added bonus of making the itineraries more shareable on China’s most popular social media platform.