Marseille, France’s second-largest city, plans to double its number of Chinese visitors within two years, according to Deputy Mayor Didier Parakian.
“Currently, Marseille receives about 60,000 Chinese visitors every year, and we hope the number will double, reaching 120,000 in the coming two years,” Parakian told China Daily.
France is the prime European destination for Chinese tourists. A record 1.7 million visitors traveled to the country from China in 2013.
While his city lags far behind Paris, Parakian said that with Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Marseille on July 1, more Chinese people will know about it, and the numbers are likely to grow. After Paris, Li stopped off in Marseille during his visit to France.
“Marseille was designated as the European Capital of Culture in 2013.
“It has exceptional cultural and natural heritage, museums and art galleries for those interested in culture, and it has historically been a destination for people with creative inclinations,” Parakian said.
Tourism is one of the major sources of growth and job creation in Marseille.
“Lots of people go to Marseille to produce movies, and Chinese people can see Marseille in several films,” Parakian said, adding that the city’s advantages in the arts, fashion, healthcare and digital access will also lure more Chinese visitors.
Parakian, who is in charge of business affairs in Marseille, said he expects Li’s visit will also attract more Chinese investment to the city, which has extensive road and air transportation infrastructure.
Being the largest commercial port in the Mediterranean and the third-largest in Europe, Marseille has many business linkswith China.
COSCO, the Chinese shipping and logistics services mega supplier, has cooperated with the port of Marseille, which has served as a container and transportation port for many years, Parakian said.
Marseille’s CMA CGM Group, the world’s third-largest shipping company, set up its first China office in Shanghai in 1992. It has developed its business and created strong relations with many Chinese companies, Parakian said.
Wiko Mobile, a popular smartphone in France, is owned by Shenzhen-based Tinno Mobile Technology, which is responsible for most design and production functions. Marseille and Shanghai have been sister cities since 1987.
“We have frequent exchange visits and have signed lots of economic cooperation agreements so far,” Parakian said, adding that the two cities also enjoy exchanges in education and sports.
Michel Gutsatz, director of the MBA program at Kedge Business School, which is based in Marseille and Bordeaux, said it was essential to enhance links with China.
“The issues facing the world today are significant. France and China have very critical roles to play here. France, which has a major role in the European Union, needs once again to strengthen its ties with China,” Gutsatz said.
Kedge has been one of the pioneers in educational cooperation, Gutsatz said, adding that “both governments have made education a major focus for the future”.