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Greece expects to see a big rise in number of Chinese visitors

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-25 07:15
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The iconic Santorini island is one of the landmarks of Greece, attracting honeymoon couples and tourists from all over the world. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Greece will greet more tourists from China in 2019, after an increase of over 22 percent in the first nine months of 2018, both Greek and Chinese officials tell Xinhua.

By the end of 2018, Greek tourism authorities expect to welcome up to 200,000 visitors from China, one of the world's fastest-growing markets.

Greece witnessed an annual growth of 22 percent in the January-September period this year, according to Ioannis Plexousakis, head of the Greek National Tourism Organization office in Beijing.

The growth trend is set to continue next year. "We expect a further increase in 2019, after the healthy rise recorded this year," says Wang Chao, cultural attache of the Chinese embassy in Athens.

Greek authorities generally have difficulty in determining with precision the number of visitors from China, because they often visit Greece after having a visa issued for another country in the European Union in the context of a tourism package with multiple destinations.

Data from the European Tourism Commission show that outbound tourism from the Chinese mainland soared from 78.4 million people in 2012 to 122 million in 2016, an increase of over 55 percent in just four years. The number of visitors to the European Union in 2016 came to an estimated 12.8 million and is expected to top 20 million by 2022.

"At this stage, Greece is chosen by the Chinese particularly for city-break tourism, for weddings and honeymoons, and for luxury and culture tourism, the latter being one of the domains we are eager to place more emphasis on," Plexousakis says.

Plexousakis also says that the strategy of the Greek Tourism Ministry and the GNTO is strengthening the forms of tourism already popular with Chinese travelers and expanding other forms, such as cruise tourism, sports and health, and the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions sector.

"For 2019, we plan a promotional mix to include programs of joint advertising with the most-important tour operators in China, advertising campaigns with the most-popular Chinese online platforms, familiarization trips for tour operator and media representatives, and key opinion leaders, as well as familiarization trips for cruise tourism and the MICE sector in Greece," says Plexousakis.

The GNTO also plans culture and gastronomy festivals in several Chinese cities in 2019, participation in four major international-tourism fairs in China and in the Shanghai Marathon, plus promotional activities with airlines and contacts with popular Chinese television and movie producers for filming in Greece, Plexousakis adds.

Chinese cultural attache in Athens Wang Chao says: "We have good cooperation from the Greek authorities, starting at ministerial level, and discussions have increased in recent months.

"Chinese visit Greece for its beautiful islands, such as Santorini and Crete, and are eager to visit archaeological and cultural sites," says Wang.

The advent of Chinese visitors to Greece also serves another major objective of the Greek tourism policy, which is the expansion of its season.

Wang points out that "unlike visitors from Europe, who mostly arrive from spring to fall, travelers from China choose periods throughout the year, including such holidays as the Chinese Spring Festival, or Lunar New Year, and the weeklong National Day holiday. This expands the Greek tourism season".

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