‘Grandpa Italy’ pro­motes Yun­nan tourism busi­ness

The re­tiree says the south­west­ern prov­ince is a mag­i­cal land

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By LI YINGQING in Kun­ming and ZHANG ZHIHAO in Beijing Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangzhi­hao@chi­nadaily.

Cor­rado Politi, a 75-yearold Ital­ian travel ex­pert, has a white beard, a bul­bous nose and a jolly smile. The lo­cals of­ten call him Santa Claus or “Grandpa Italy”, but he likes to in­tro­duce him­self as a na­tive of South­west China’s Yun­nan prov­ince.

Politi re­ceived a doc­tor­ate in law from the Univer­sity of Florence. He speaks eight lan­guages and has worked for the Euro­pean Foun­da­tion for Man­age­ment Devel­op­ment and other non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Af­ter re­tire­ment, Politi be­gan trav­el­ing around the world, and China be­came his fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion. He has vis­ited China more than 20 times in the past 15 years, pro­mot­ing tourism co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Asian and Euro­pean coun­tries, and was an in­ter­na­tional ad­viser for the China Tourism Academy in 2008.

But he had never vis­ited Yun­nan prov­ince un­til he was cap­ti­vated by flower-wo­ven ele­phants dis­played at the Yun­nan ex­hi­bi­tion area at an in­ter­na­tional tourism mart held in the coun­try.

Five days later, he found him­self back­pack­ing through the prov­ince brim­ming with snow-capped moun­tains, rice ter­races, lakes and deep gorges, and in­hab­ited by a large num­ber of eth­nic groups. His first trip only lasted a week due to his visa ex­pir­ing, but the jour­ney left a last­ing mark.

“It is like a fairy tale to me,” he said. “Af­ter re­turn­ing home, I still couldn’t keep my mind off Yun­nan. I read ev­ery­thing about this place and couldn’t wait to visit this mag­i­cal land again.”

Since then, Politi has vis­ited Yun­nan ev­ery year, staying a this friend’ s home in Tai ping town in Kun­ming, the provin­cial cap­i­tal. Al­though Politi doesn’t speak much Man­darin, he still greets his friend’s neigh­bors ev­ery time he sees them. Dur­ing his stays, Politi ex­plores the prov­ince with Huang Linwu, di­rec­tor of the Yun­nan Tourism Devel­op­ment Com­mit­tee, who Politi be­friended at the tourism mart.

“He has be­come so fa­mil­iar with Yun­nan cul­ture that we of­ten joke how he is a Yun­nan na­tive born in Italy,” Huang said.

At theLong Street Ban­quet, a tra­di­tional Jingpo eth­nic fes­ti­val in Yun­nan, Politi danced with the lo­cals, wear­ing a white fez with stars and fur beads. Later, he put on a Jingpo jacket and ate from a bas­ket full of tra­di­tional Yun­nan food with friends.

Politi said the good weather, clean air and fresh food in Yun­nan have worked won­ders for his di­a­betes and hy­per­ten­sion. “But I love the kind in­hab­i­tants the most,” he said.

Once, dur­ing a rain­storm, Politi’s car was stuck in mud near a vil­lage in Lyuchun county. Lo­cal vil­lagers rushed to help and af­ter­ward, they de­clined Politi’s of­fer of money, say­ing “it is only nat­u­ral to help oth­ers”.

“Peo­ple here are so nice, so wel­com­ing. I wish to do some­thing for them, for the econ­omy,” Politi said. In 2013, he be­came the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing ad­viser for the Yun­nan provin­cial tourism com­mit­tee, pro­mot­ing the prov­ince on the world stage.

In 2014, the first di­rect air route be­tween Paris and Kun­ming was opened. When pack­ing for Yun­nan’s tourism pro­mo­tion event in Europe, Politi re­moved his per­sonal be­long­ings to make room for more pam­phlets. At the event, he used flu­ent Ital­ian and French to in­tro­duce Yun­nan to travel agents.

HUANG DAXIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Cor­rado Politi at­tends a tourism fes­ti­val in De­hong, Yun­nan prov­ince.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.