Published on 18th April 2012

Andrew North and the Mayor, Councillor Barbara Driver during the trip to Weihai

Fourteen local residents and business leaders have returned from their trip to Weihai, Cheltenham’s Chinese twin town.

Their intention was to promote Cheltenham from a business and educational point of view. It is hoped the self funded trip will have created excellent business, educational and tourism relationships.

The trip included visits to:

  • the Weihai campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology
  • Wego Group – a large manufacturer and direct supplier of medical equipment
  • Weihai Jiguan Kindergarten and Huancui International Middle School,
  • the Sunshine Centre, training adults with learning difficulties to achieve employment and return to their families.
  • Liugong Island, with a trip to see the pandas

Special arrangements were also made for one lady who got to visit a part of Liugong Island not normally open to visitors, so she could pay her respects to the memory of her late uncle, who died in 1931 in a naval accident involving the submarine HMS Poseidon.

Young people have already been visiting Cheltenham from Weihai during the summer to improve their English in courses run by GlosCol but further education links have been forged with the University of Gloucestershire and it is hoped a Confucius institute may be introduced. Support will be offered to small and medium sized businesses in Cheltenham to encourage trade with China. With support from the Weihai Link, assistance will be offered to market Weihai to a Western audience forging tourist links between our town and their city.

The Mayor, Barbara Driver, said: “We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Weihai and our hosts made us feel very welcome. The visits gave us a great insight into the wonderful cultural differences between Cheltenham and Weihai which will help us develop our twinning link. We have also invited several delegates from Weihai to the Olympic Torch event in May.”

Andrew North, chief executive of Cheltenham Borough Council, added: “This visit allowed us to build relationships in person so we can set a clear agenda of how we will work together. When you think that Cheltenham has a population of 119 thousand compared to Weihai’s 2.47 million we are very lucky to be twinned with them and excited about the opportunities this will create.”

Tim Howarth, Weihai Link: "Cheltenham and Weihai have been twinned for 25 years, and as China is opening itself to the world, there are many more opportunities for us to find out about life there for ourselves, and not just through the media.”