Clas­sic Greece lures Chi­nese with beau­ti­ful scenery, breath of ro­mance PLACES OF IN­TER­EST

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHENG XIN zhengxin@chi­

Greece aims to at­tract more Chi­nese tourists this year, carv­ing out a big­ger share of a lu­cra­tive and ever-grow­ing gold mine of out­bound trav­el­ers.

About 100,000 Chi­nese tourists are ex­pected to head to Greece in 2014, many of them young trav­el­ers on hon­ey­moons or seek­ing ex­otic wed­ding pho­tos, ac­cord­ing to the Greek Na­tional Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“About 40,000 Chi­nese ap­plied for a visa to Greece in 2013,” said Sun Yanan, pub­lic­ity of­fi­cer at the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Bei­jing of­fice.

Tak­ing into ac­count that tourists might en­ter Greece from other Schen­gen coun­tries in Europe, the to­tal num­ber of Chi­nese tourists vis­it­ing the coun­try last year was es­ti­mated at 80,000, she said.

The num­ber is ex­pected to grow to 100,000 this year, Sun said.

Schen­gen coun­tries in Europe are the 26 that al­low pass­port­free move­ment across their com­mon borders.

With more fre­quent and di­rect flights be­tween Greece and China, it is be­lieved the Greek is­lands will at­tract more Chi­nese vis­i­tors in the fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to the eco­nomic and commercial coun­selor’s of­fice of the Chi­nese em­bassy in Greece.

Yang Jin­song, a China Tourism Academy pro­fes­sor, said main­land trav­el­ers are look­ing to des­ti­na­tions out­side South­east Asia af­ter the dis­ap­pear­ance of a Malaysia Air­lines flight in March from Kuala Lumpur to Bei­jing.

More­over, anti-China vi­o­lence in Viet­nam, dis­tur­bances in the Philip­pines and Thai­land and mis­un­der­stand­ings be­tween main­land tourists and Hong Kong res­i­dents all tend to de­ter main­land tourists from vis­it­ing the tra­di­tion­ally pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions, he said.

Plus, many Chi­nese trav­el­ers who have al­ready had sev­eral re­gional over­seas ex­pe­ri­ences are no longer sat­is­fied with stick­ing to the neigh­bor­hood. They want to go far­ther.

“With more money to spend and longer va­ca­tion pe­ri­ods, more Chi­nese tend to visit des­ti­na­tions in the far­away Euro­pean and Amer­i­can re­gions,” Yang said.

Greece is get­ting more pop­u­lar with the Chi­nese, he said, with epic sun­sets in places like Imerovigli, the clas­sic white build­ings and col­or­ful roofs of Oia, the breezy beaches of Tsilivi and bliss­ful get­aways like San­torini.

Sta­tis­tics from the on­line travel agency show that this year’s peak sea­son, from Jan­uary to May, saw a 10 per­cent in­crease in tourists to Greece com­pared with the same pe­riod last year.

“The growth is ex­pected to ex­pand fur­ther in the sec­ond half of the year,” said Shi Kaifeng, pub­lic­ity of­fi­cer of the agency.

In ad­di­tion to hon­ey­moon and wed­ding photo tours, Chi­nese se­niors are in­creas­ingly head­ing for the Greek Is­lands for a breath of ro­mance.

Cus­tom tour pack­ages, in­clud­ing he­li­copter rides, para­sail­ing and ocean cruises are also in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar among the rich of China, in­clud­ing the celebri­ties, said Zhang Yali, a staff mem­ber at Bei­jing-based Caissa Travel Agency who is re­spon­si­ble for tour pack­ages to Greece.

Tourism to Greece for ex­hi­bi­tions has also ex­panded in re­cent years, she said.

The Greek min­is­ter of tourism said ear­lier that the govern­ment was work­ing on speed­ing up and sim­pli­fy­ing visa pro­ce­dures for vis­i­tors from Europe’s Schen­gen coun­tries.

Chi­nese tourists can also see road signs in Chi­nese at Greek tourist sites to let them know they are wel­comed.

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