BUSINESS

Annual increase in Chinese arrivals will not reach 10 pct

STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

TAGS: Tourism

Greece can only expect a moderate increase in Chinese tourism arrivals this year, less than 10 percent up on last season, according to the General Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises (GEPOET), which took part in the ITB China 2017 fair earlier this month.

GEPOET notes that the signs from China are favorable but not spectacular. So far group trips are lagging compared to personalized packages that Chinese tourists can easy find through online agents. It also stresses that it will take a long, persistent and systematic effort for Greece to tap the Chinese market for the desired level of holidaymakers from that country.

In any case, the federation estimates the situation could show a sudden shift only if direct flights are launched between Athens and Beijing. In this context it argues that “according to information that is pending confirmation, Air China and China Eastern Air Lines are planning to start flights to Athens as of September, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced during his recent visit to China.”

The latest official figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) and the Bank of Greece show tourism arrivals from China came to 17,329 in the first half of 2016, down 27.6 percent from the same time in 2015. The same data show that Chinese visitors numbered 55,097 for the whole of 2015.

At an event organized by the Athens Chamber of Tradesmen and the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry to present Alitrip, an Alibaba subsidiary, representatives of the Chinese tourism platform said that Chinese visitors to this country could increase up to 1 million per year in the next three years. They added that that was conditional on an improvement in visa issue procedures, the promotion of Greek tourism in China, the Alipay system becoming available in Greek stores as of early July, and signs written in Chinese, among other factors.

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