The Cambridge Sustainable Tourism Conference (#CambsTourism2019) was an enormous success and established itself as the premier platform for enabling leaders of the local tourism sector to connect with business leaders specialising in the inbound tourism from China.

Keynote speeches from the directors of Cambridge’s leading tourism organisations were followed by panel discussions with Chinese tourism operators and the leaders of Cambridge, Ely and Newmarket tourism; helping both sides to identify specific challenges and what could be done to turn them into beneficial opportunities.


Jinzhao Li, Director of Cambridge China Centre, welcomes attendees and explains the Cambridge China Centre’s goals for the conference and for bringing together the professional communities within the UK|China tourism sector.

Emma Thornton, CEO of Visit Cambridge & Beyond, introduced the opportunities and challenges faced by Cambridge tourism. Her organisation aims to work with Chinese tourism colleagues in order to provide better and more-sustainable Cambridge experiences.

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, discusses the diverse range of shopping in Cambridge and why the city’s incredible shopping experience has been ranked #1 in the UK for two consecutive years.

Kelly Vickers, Managing Director of Meet Cambridge, presented the unique and customizable experiences that combine the facilities and accommodation of the University of Cambridge to host large business meetings and incentive tours.

CSTC 2019 was held in the University Arms on 2 May 2019 and co-organised by Cambridge China Centre and Visit Cambridge & Beyond. Over 100 delegates attended with 59% representing the China inbound tourism sector and 41% representing local businesses and services.

➣ Challenges and opportunities from the panel discussions

An afternoon panel discussion with Chinese tourism agents revealed that after years or decades of working in or with the UK, many knew little about Cambridge other than the ubiquitous photos of the famous chapels, bridges and punts. The subsequent panel of leaders of the local tourism sector debated this issue and spoke of how they needed to work together to more effectively promote the area (Cambridge, Ely, Newmarket) as a whole experience deserving more time to explore.

Addressing the theme that we needed to change perceptions of Cambridge and Beyond from being a short stop to a unique place to stay, the Managing Director of Meet Cambridge said,”Together, we have an opportunity to change the perception of Cambridge as a destination suitable for a visit for a few hours, to a destination where you an immerse yourself in an intimate, authentic experience. This would be mutually beneficial for both parties – Cambridge would benefit from greater international delegate spend and minimise the impact of over-tourism and Chinese guests would have an exceptional experience in the City and the region. Collaborating on these efforts will be exciting.”

Delegates on the China tourism panel discuss “What is missing and what is expected” with Cambridge tourism.

Delegates from Cambridge, Ely and Newmarket discuss what is available, how it can be improved, and how it can be made sustainable.

Arising from the panel discussions were ideas for curating special tours and stays based on special interests such as culture, science and luxury shopping. These were complimented with discussions about how to more-effectively market the tours and options through a more innovative use of Chinese social media and travel blogging. It became clear that Cambridge China Centre is perfectly positioned to help bridge the local tourism sector with leading Chinese tourism professionals and independent travellers.

➣ FAM trips to experience Cambridge and Beyond

The events of the day culminated in a choice of three tours led by Cambridge BID, Discover Newmarket and Visit Ely, where attendees were invited to sample the best of the region. The Cambridge tour explored the shopping and culture highlights within the centre of the city. The tour of Newmarket (the UK’s horseracing capital) included visits to Palace House, the National Stud and a chance to meet racehorses and their trainers. The tour of Ely included an exciting climb to the top of Ely Cathedral (the most spectacular view in Cambridgeshire) and back down to the adjacent picturesque tea rooms before finishing at the nearby Oliver Cromwell House.

Cambridge BID’s tour included the best of the city’s shopping and historical sights.

Discover Newmarket’s tour included Palace House, the National Stud and key sights of the horseracing capital of the UK.

Visit Ely curated a tour that included an adventure to the top of the Cathedral and a stop in the tranquil tea rooms in the adjacent gardens.


It became clear to all of the attendees that the enormous depth and opportunities to explore offered by Newmarket and Ely are integral to making the Cambridge area a stronger attraction for tourists to stay longer, as well as for the smart and sustainable growth of the industry. Cambridge China Centre will continue to help these goals become a reality by connecting the local tourist industry with representatives of the China inbound tourism sector.

The next steps, and next year’s conference are going to be very exciting for all!