BUSINESS

China eyes sending over 1.5 mln tourists in the medium term

ILIAS BELLOS, DIMITRA MANIFAVA

TAGS: Tourism, Diplomacy

Beijing is setting a medium-term target for a tenfold rise in Chinese visitors to Greece, who as of this summer will be able to use online payment platform Alipay, launched in China by Alibaba Group in 2004, in Greece too.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Monday in Athens that “although every year there are more Chinese tourists in Greece, we have observed that last year just 150,000 visited. We therefore think that there is great scope for further increasing this figure.”

Speaking in the context of a meeting with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias, Wang added: “I understand that last year some 3 million Chinese visited Italy, but the origin of the Roman culture is Greek. Therefore I believe that if even half of them get to come to Greece, i.e. 1.5 million people, they will be 10 times as many as last year’s number. I believe that day is not very far.”

Kathimerini understands that Alipay, the Alibaba subsidiary that is the main means of payment in China with a 60 percent market share, will be set in operation in Greece before the start of the summer tourism season. The first phase will be a pilot one, in cooperation with up to 20 Greek enterprises selected according to the turnover Chinese tourists generate in them, such as Athens-listed Folli Follie.

Chinese tourists will not only be able to make their payments online in Greece but also to be informed about offers, tourism destinations, cultural sites, stores and restaurants.

Athens and Beijing are also continuing contacts regarding the simplification of the visa issue process for Chinese visitors. Sources say Beijing has proposed the application of the cooperation model chosen with the government of Luxembourg since 2015.

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