Attracting big-spending Chinese tourists to Barnsley by exploiting Christian links with a spiritual leader from the town will be discussed at a meeting later this month.
Members of the James Hudson Taylor Trust, specialists in Chinese business, education, culture and ethics, and representatives from Barnsley College will look at how they can develop links between Barnsley-born 19th century Christian missionary James Hudson Taylor and China, where he lived from 1854.
Hudson Taylor is little known in Barnsley but is hailed as a spiritual leader by more than 70 million Christians in the Far East.
Owen Gleadall, of Barnsley Street Pastors, believes Barnsley's links to Hudson Taylor are a unique selling point, especially since a heritage trail was set up consisting of plaques erected to honour the missionary, including one outside Boots which is built on the site where he was born.
Owen said: "Barnsley is the spiritual home of the Chinese Christian community because it is the birthplace of Hudson Taylor and it is estimated that 70 million Chinese owe their Christian heritage to him.
"Many thousands of them have expressed a wish to come and study here and visit the trail and we should be ready for that."
Owen said someone he knows from Hope House Church in the town centre visited China and witnessed 4,000 people at one service praying for Barnsley.
He added: "They hold seven services at day at that church, that's between 25,000 and 30,000 during the day praying for Barnsley because they believe it's their spiritual home.
"And that is just one church in one part of China."
Ideas to expand these links could include a Chinese quarter or being twinned with a city in China, he said.
"We talk about the decline of the Arcade. Why can't we have a Chinese quarter there with the same sort of things as they have in China Town in London? I think some of the shops could think about having a Chinese point of sale or information.
"We could easily twin with one or more Chinese cities and create a Chinese friendly culture here in Barnsley where businesses could really latch on to the fact that if the Chinese were to come here, we could make them feel welcome and have something to enhance their visit."
Owen said Barnsley College was looking to send a delegation to China to attract students, and that a Chinese-speaking ambassador for Barnsley would be a good idea.
"There are already a number of Chinese people visiting Barnsley and the James Hudson Taylor Trust is growing all the time.
"The people I've spoken to in the business community are very excited, as are people in the church community."
But he added: "The last time we had a delegation, trying to get some of the people to take it seriously was quite difficult, I haven't a clue why. I don't think people can get their head around the opportunity that's available, it's the almost-too-good-to-be-true syndrome."
The meeting, on January 21, will be held at The Civic from 2pm to 4pm.