Sturla Böðvarsson flutti eftirfarandi ávarp á hátíðarfundi Íslensk kínverska verslunarráðsins nú fyrir stundu á Hótel Sögu.

Mr. Chairman, honoured guests!

It gives me great pleasure as the Minister of Tourism to be able to take part in this meeting here in Reykjavik today – and I would like to extend my warmest wishes on the tenth anniversary of the Icelandic-Chinese Trade Council.

Over the past 50 years, Icelandic tourism has experienced dramatic growth. It has transformed from a small industry into Iceland’s second-largest industry, as measured in foreign currency earnings. Tourism is viewed as one of the mainstays in the development of future employment opportunities in Iceland.

As is perhaps natural, promotion of Iceland as a tourist destination has long been mostly limited to the nations served by direct flights to our country. And therefore overwhelming majority of tourists who have come here have been from Europe and the United States. Now, however, all that is changing, and Icelandic tourism professionals are very excited to bring tourists from Asia — and especially China — to our country. In the group here today, there is certainly no need to list the reasons for this change. But how do Icelandic tourism officials and companies anticipate reaching out to that big market?

Since 2003 the Icelandic authorities have had an air traffic agreement with China. This is of importance for the future opportunities in the tourism and aviation business in Iceland. It makes it possible for Icelandic companies to take advantage of the great opportunity to participate in the future growth of this fast-growing business.

And last year, Icelandic and Chinese authorities made an agreement, called „Approved Destination Status“. This means that Chinese tourists are able to travel to Iceland more easily as part of organized tour groups.

We have participated in the most extensive marketing research of the tourism demand and behaviour of the entire Asian market, including China, Japan, Southeast Asia, and India. That market research will be the cornerstone of the marketing efforts for all the Nordic tourist authorities

This month, I will be visiting China, as a guest of the China State Tourism Administration. During that visit I will have the opportunity to travel to Kunming and attend the largest professional travel trade show, not only in China but in all of Asia. The Icelandic Tourist Board will participate in the show, with representatives from the Icelandic travel trade and in co-operation with Icelandair and the Icelandic Embassy in Beijing. And I hope to be able to do my part to promote the strengthening of business ties between Icelandic and Chinese tourism companies.

Finally – I would like to express my best wishes to the Icelandic-Chinese Trade Council in its important work.