From its delicious food to its breathtaking historic sites to its fantastic works of art, Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. More than 48 million tourists visit Italy each year, making it the world’s fifth most popular country for international vacations.
In fact, Italy is so popular that one nation in particular has decided it may need to protect its citizens while they visit some of the country’s most famous locations. China, in an effort to ensure the safety of its international travelers, has sent members of its own police force to patrol some of Italy’s largest tourist hotspots.
There are Chinese officers stationed in parts of both Milan and Rome, and will be working with the Italian police to help prevent crimes such as pickpocketing or mugging, as well as to help tourists report these crimes if they do occur. This marks the first time China has sent its own police to protect tourists in Europe, although countries such as Poland, Spain and the U.S. have taken similar measures in the past.
The decision has raised some questions from both countries though, as crime in Italy is at an all-time low, according to The Guardian. Additionally, only around three million Chinese tourists travel to Italy each year, making up a relatively small portion of the country’s massive amount of yearly visitors.
However, Chinese and Italian authorities both argue that the presence of a familiar police force will simply help ease the minds of Chinese tourists, especially in the wake of the wake of the Brussels attacks, in which a young Chinese citizen was killed. Additionally, it may be easier for tourists to report crimes to a police officer that speaks their language and understands their culture.
If the measure truly is just to provide peace of mind, then it may be effective, as Italian law will likely greatly limit how much Chinese officers can actually do in terms of enforcement. In the meantime, Chinese tourists can at least expect a familiar face when they visit the Coliseum.
Dillon Thompson is a travel intern with Paste and a student at the University of Georgia.