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