In China’s quest for global influence, the Middle East has increasingly taken on increased importance. This is in part an effort to acquire strategically important natural resources, namely fossil fuels. However, fundamentally this new Middle East focus is also an effort to facilitate the consolidation of Chinese economic and political influence globally, China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is one face of these efforts. Tourism is yet another, but China may find itself forced to assume a more direct political role in the region to further its long-term strategic goals.
Coinciding with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism’s (DCT) recent road show, Chinese state media has been ramping up coverage of the growth of Chinese tourism to the Gulf emirate. These outlets have been trumpeting the estimated 40.9 percent growth in arrivals, reaching 86,400, for the two first months of this year compared to 2017. DCT traveled to three major Chinese cities, Beijing, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, and brought with them representatives from many Abu Dhabi tourism stakeholder firms, including Etihad Airways.