China-Arab Countries Ties: Arab countries investing in Mandarin to boost tourism
Cultural ties between China and some Arab countries are also growing. With increased connectivity between the two sides, attracting Chinese tourists has become a major focus for some Middle Eastern cities like Dubai. Rosanna Lockwood reports.
This is seen as a fancy city and also a shopping paradise for Chinese tourists. According to Dubai's tourism office, last year more than 750-thousand Chinese visitors travelled to the city. And the government here is working particularly hard to woo them. With Mandarin language schools like this one forming a key part of those efforts.
LIJUN TONG, TEACHER CHINESE LANGUAGE INSTITUTE DUBAI "Our institute is cooperating, partnering with the local government office also to give Chinese Mandarin language training courses to help the local government to train their staff to communicate with Chinese people coming to Dubai. "
This includes student Alia Ali Salmin, who works in the immigration department.
ALIA ALI SALMIN, STUDENT CHINESE LANGUAGE INSTITUTE IN DUBAI "There are lots of Chinese people coming to Dubai. There are lots of Chinese people who want to communicate with you but they don't know English, they don't know Arabic, so it is also very difficult for them to communicate with us."
Investments in language training are helping to bridge that gap. With a 41% increase in the number of Chinese travellers heading to Dubai between 2016 and 17.
ROSANNA LOCKWOOD DUBAI "Over the past few years, the government here has made a number of sweeping changes to encourage Chinese travellers to visit Dubai, from visa-on-arrival status to new flight routes as well as partnerships with top Chinese tech giants such as Tencent and Huawei who now promote Dubai through their products and platforms."
The tourism office is aiming to attract 20-million global tourists to Dubai by 2020, and they see Chinese travellers forming a big part of that number.
HOOR ALKHAJA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR ASIA PACIFIC, DUBAI TOURISM "You know when you compare to last year, for example, or the years before, China was not on the top 5 source markets for Dubai. In 2017 we stood at number 5. Go back 4 or 5 years, it wasn't even on the top 10."
With tourist numbers from China increasing rapidly, learning mandarin could become a lot more useful here in the Middle East. And it means more Chinese visitors may soon be greeted with a "Nǐ hǎo" on arrival. Rosanna Lockwood, CGTN, Dubai.