16 OCT 2017: Who knew China is considered among the countries to possess the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world? But then again having 5,000 years of history can do this. Home to some of the world’s earliest great civilizations, China currently has 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (VIDEO)

UNESCO Treasures

Think the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Warriors and the Huangshan Mountains. Then there are the cultural heritage sites – those that UNESCO deems as: “an expression of the ways of living developed by a community and passed on from generation to generation.” China boasts 36 cultural heritage sites, among them, the ancient city of Ping Yao, once revered as the “Great Wall Street of China” due to its early banking provenance.

The Paris-headquartered organization with field offices worldwide has also designated 12 natural heritage sites in China, and four it considers a mix of cultural and natural.

Last week the China National Tourist Office hosted an industry gala reception to showcase, “Beautiful China – Journey along the World Heritage Sites,” which has been as the CNTO describes it: “the grandest promotional campaign of China’s tourism industry in Canada in 2017.”

2018 Canada-China Tourism Year The event held at the Westin Prince gave guests, as Wenting Yang, director of the CNTO in Canada noted in a press statement, “A great opportunity of tightening bilateral exchanges and cooperation in the tourism sector between China and Canada prior to the 2018 Canada-China Tourism Year.”

The Federal Government and China have announced a joint tourism promotion between the two nations. The year-long campaign which launches next year will be known as the “Year of Canada-Chinese Tourism.”

“Tourism is open, cooperative and sharing, and it is the most common, the most basic and the most effective area in state-to-state relations,” said Wang Xiaofeng, vice-chairman of China National Tourism Administration, describing the bi-national tourism partnership which is expected to double the number of mutual visits between China and Canada before 2025.

Popular Places In previous campaigns, the CNTO has featured UNESCO sites in such tourism promotions as the “Yellow River,” “The Charming Yangtze River,” “The Silk Road,” and “Jiangnan Water Town” which guests heard remain as popular sites for international tourists.

But then there are other lesser known sites that were revealed during the event that Canadians should consider.

Lesser Known Places:

Prior to the presentations, there was an informal mingling reception between local agents and tourism representatives from 19 provinces in China. The language barrier didn’t seem to get in the way either. The enthusiastic Chinese tourism delegation displayed colourful pamphlets some with riveting headlines, and thankfully, there were helpful souls able to assist in English translations.

One that caught my eye was The Garden of China: Jiangsu. Home to nearly 80 million people, the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu is a bed rock of China. The civilization spans over three millennia.

“Every hilltop temple and ancient city tells its own story,” says Huang Li, deputy director of the Jiangsu Provincial Tourism Administration. She added the provincial capital of Nanjing has been an incubator for the country’s biggest movements.

“It was the birthplace of the Chinese Republic, Sun Yatsen, set up his first government there,” she notes on the political revolutionary who is considered the father of modern China. Nanjing was China’s capital between 1912 and 1949.

She flips the pages and stops at Suzhou, flashing a huge smile, “These gardens in Suzhou are beautiful.” Indeed. The city boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage Gardens. The big daddy of them all arguably is the Liuyuan (Lingering Garden) which should be high on anyone’s itinerary.

Over 400 years old, this heritage garden carved in twisted rocks dredged from nearby Taihu Lake has 200 windows in the garden, each with an extraordinary unique view. Garden lovers and history buffs should watch out for three gingko trees estimated to be over 300 years old.

Tourism Infrastructure During the evening guests heard about tourism infrastructure improvement projects, air connectivity, and, overall better tourist service as China continues to diversify its tourism products.

When it comes to tourism worldwide, Wang Xiaofeng, Vice-chairman of China National Tourism Administration, noted China remains the world’s biggest tourist source market and fourth most visited destination.

Canadian Visitors The CNTO reports 750,000 Canadians visit annually. “Canadians are currently the second largest source of China’s overseas visitors in America and a key long-haul source market,” he concluded.

 A complete UNESCO list 

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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