''The main difficulty — Russia often puts forward high demands on China''
How is China's Anhui Province — the homeland of Chery cars and Haier refrigerators — going to attract Russian tourists?
The Realnoe Vremya observer has recently visited the Chinese province of Anhui, where he and his colleagues from the Volga Federal District were acquainted with the tourist potential of the region. Our journalist went to China as part of the Fourth joint working group of representatives of the the Russian Federation subjects to study the cooperation with Anhui Province. In the city of Hefei (the administrative centre of the province), Director-General of Anhui Provincial Foreign Affairs Office Sun Yong specially for the Russian guests held a presentation of the region and talked with Russian counterparts. The official also answered our questions.
''Russia puts forward high demands''
Mr. Sun, thank you for the presentation of the tourism potential of the province. You have said a flight connection is going to be launched from Anhui Province to Russia…
Yes, the flight will be operated to Moscow, it will be one flight a week. We plan to launch it by the end of the year. We have no plans to launch flights to other cities so far.
Can Kazan expect a direct flight from Hefei?
If you are asking about Kazan, this question should be discussed with the airlines. We will look at how things will be going with Moscow. If there are few passengers, then such flight will be unprofitable. However, I hope (and there are all grounds for this) that the number of passengers will be high, and in this case we will consider other cities, we will certainly turn our attention to Tatarstan. It should be understood that Russian passengers are also expected to fly this direction.
You have been working with Russian partners for many years. What difficulties have you faced in cooperation with Russians?
The main difficulty — Russia often puts forward high demands on us. Our states cooperate closely at both the highest and lowest levels, so the relations harmonize quickly. When there are agreements at the highest level, the process goes quite easily. Moreover, I will share with you a little secret: we are going to open an Anhui cultural centre in Kazan. But I won't reveal the details yet. You'll find out about them soon.
''The flight will be operated to Moscow, it will be one flight a week. We plan to launch it by the end of the year. We have no plans to launch flights to other cities so far.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov
We have heard from Russian businessmen that negotiations with the Chinese are not easy, your compatriots are reluctant to make concessions. How to overcome this barrier?
Anyway, mind you, we do reach a common denominator. For example, in Tatarstan there operates a Haier plant, which produces household appliances. It is a good example of successful cooperation between the countries. I agree that the heads of Chinese enterprises should learn how to work with Russian partners and study all the nuances of investing in Russia. On the other hand, Russian officials, especially at the local level, should also learn how to work with Chinese companies. We should carefully study each other, consider such successful joint projects and implement new ones.
''You will get to Hefei anyway''
How many tourists visit Anhui and its attractions?
About 100 million tourists come here annually. Most of them are Chinese, of course.
What is the share of employment in the province's tourism sector?
Total employment in this industry is 10,2% of the province's population. Tourism in our country began to develop after the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. Back in 1979, the tourism industry was one of the weakest. Today the results are tangible: we have developed infrastructure, good tourist flow and ambitious plans for further development.
What are the three places a tourist must visit in your province?
First, it is the Huangshan mountains, known as Yellow Mountains. Second, Mount Jiuhua – the sacred Buddhist mountain. Third, it is the Mount Tianzhu. I advise you to look at all these mountains only if you want to admire the nature. If you are interested in culture, I recommend to go to the southern part of the province — there are authentic villages. This is where the origins of Anhui culture come from.
I advise you to look at all these mountains only if you want to admire the nature. If you are interested in culture, I recommend to go to the southern part of the province — there are authentic villages
What about visiting the administrative centre — the city of Hefei?
If you want to visit the sights of our province, you will get to Hefei anyway. It is in this city where the main transport hubs of the province are concentrated. As far as I know, from Beijing you got here by high-speed train in just 3 hours, travelling 1,000 kilometres. We also have several airports, developed road network.
How are other types of tourism — health and recreation, industrial — developing?
Certainly, we have such directions. For example, you can get acquainted with the automotive industry. The JAC automobile plant's conveyors annually produce thousands of units of cars and trucks, including cars running on electricity. Visitors can even sit in the driver's seat of these cars and drive them around the territory of the enterprise. Our province also produces Chery cars. As for primary wellness tourism, mountains, there is a wellness centre in the Tianzhu Mountain. I must also mentions the direction such as gastronomic tourism. The Chinese food is diverse — there are eight types of Chinese cuisine, including Anhui one. Our dishes are not the most spicy and fresh. Besides, out of ten varieties of tea produced in China, four are grown and prepared in our province. Tours to tea plantations with tasting this drink are also provided. To Russian tourists, we offer to try our Chinese vodka — it is stronger than Russian. There is a saying in Russians, ''It is better to see once, than hundred times to hear.'' You can also add, ''Better once to try.'' Business tourism goes without saying: various business events and forums are held in Hefei and other cities.
What is the situation with safety of tourists on the streets of the cities in your province?
We pay special attention to this issue, and first of all, to transport security. Second, the security in the premises. Third, on the streets. In general, the Chinese government does a lot to ensure that the country's citizens and our dear guests feel safe. You should understand that China is a peaceful country, there is almost no something really threatening human life and health here, especially for foreigners. You can notice that the Chinese treat the citizens of other states with respect. I know this from my personal experience and from my friends'. The main thing is to always follow the safety rules in the mountains and other places, read the instructions, follow the signs. Each group of tourists, as a rule, is assigned with a special guide, whom they must listen to. The Chinese will help you, too. So, don't worry about it.
Out of ten varieties of tea produced in China, four are grown and prepared in our province. Tours to tea plantations with tasting this drink are also provided
There is also a language barrier. There are not many people, including hotel staff, who speak English, not to mention Russian. How to solve this problem?
In this case, I advise you an electronic interpreter. A special equipment and corresponding software have been developed in the city of Hefei. With its assistance (iFlytek – editor's note), it is possible to translate into 40 languages.
But the Internet is required for this. Do you plan to train the staff and to install the corresponding signs on the streets?
A good piece of advice. Certainly, we will raise this issue. We still have a lot of tasks to accomplish in the cooperation with Russia. By the way, in the mountains of Huangshan there are installed signs in different languages, there are also inscriptions in Russian. By the way, not all cities in Russia are ready to receive tourists, too. My Russian friends tell me about this, although in your country the progress is noticeable in this respect.
''We started cooperating with Bashkiria in the field of education''
As far as I know, in 2016 Hefei became a sister city of Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan. What fruits this town twinning has brought over 2 years?
We have started such partnerships with many cities, not only with Ufa. This is done in order to strengthen ties. Then we find opportunities for cooperation, not always in trade and economic terms. First, we just want to understand each other.
That is, nothing concrete has been achieved over two year? Just a relationship, that's it?
No, it is not. We have started cooperating with Bashkiria in the field of education: relations between universities and schools have been established. A special fund has been established in Hefei to support Russian students in Ufa. The cooperation has also begun in other areas. We are developing cultural and humanitarian ties with Ufa and other cities. Thus, we have started to hold the Chinese-Russian youth forum, there is an exchange of students and teachers. Of course, we will not limit ourselves to education alone. We will look for other areas for partnership.
We have started such partnerships with many cities, not only with Ufa. This is done in order to strengthen ties. Then we find opportunities for cooperation, not always in trade and economic terms. First, we just want to understand each other
We noticed that our plastic cards are often not valid here, including Visa and MasterCard. What Russian tourists should do if they do not have enough cash but have a card?
You should think of this service in your banks in Russia in advance. In small shops, there are only two types of payment — cash and through a special application in smartphones, for example, through WeChat. When I need to buy something, I just take my phone with me. Try to use your card in large stores — it should be valid there.
WeChat is not popular in Russia. Moreover, one needs an invitation from a Chinese citizen to register in it on the territory of China.
I have many Russian friends with whom I communicate through WeChat. This is a technical issue, I think it is simple. For our part, we will find a specialist and will solve it. WeChat has two functions — communication and payment. We know that WhatsApp, Skype and other applications are more popular in your country. I'm sure we can find a solution. So do not worry. I must say that the first steps have already been taken. We still have to carefully study each other, get acquainted with the traditions of both countries, peculiarities of each region. Then we can overcome any difficulties together.
Realnoe Vremya editorial board expresses gratitude to the Anhui centre for cooperation between China and Russia, the Office of Foreign Affairs of the People's Government of Anhui Province and the State Committee of the Republic of Tatarstan on Tourism for organizing the trip to China