Greece will see a further rise in tourism flow from China in 2019, after an increase of over 22 percent recorded in the first nine months of 2018, both Greek and Chinese officials told 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 has witnessed an annual growth of 22.07 percent in the January-September period this year, according to Ioannis Plexousakis, the head of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) office in Beijing.
The growth trend is set to continue for next year: "We expect a further increase in 2019, after the healthy rise recorded this year," Wang Chao, the Cultural Attache at the Chinese Embassy in Athens. told Xinhua.
Greek authorities generally have a difficulty in determining with precision the number of visitors from China, because they often visit Greece 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 showed that outbound tourism from China's 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 wedding & honeymoon and for luxury & culture tourism, the latter being one of the domains we are eager to place more emphasis on," Plexousakis explained to Xinhua.
Plexousakis noted that the strategy of the Greek Tourism Ministry and the GNTO is for strengthening the forms of tourism already popular among the Chinese travelers and for expanding other dynamic forms, such as cruise tourism, sports, health and the tourism of meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE).
"For 2019 we are planning 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, the organization of familiarization trips for tour operator and media representatives and key opinion leaders, as well as themed trips for familiarization with cruise tourism and MICE in Greece," said Beijing-based Plexousakis.
GNTO also plans for the organization of Greek tourism, culture and gastronomy festivals in several Chinese cities in 2019, participation in four major international tourism fairs in China and in the Shanghai Marathon with the associated Marathon exhibition, plus promotional action with airlines and the effort to attract popular Chinese television and movie producers for filming in Greece, Plexousakis added.
"We have a very good cooperation with the Greek authorities, starting from ministerial level with visits and discussions that have increased in recent months," said the Chinese Cultural Attache in Athens.
"Chinese visitors come to Greece for its beautiful islands such as Santorini and Crete and are eager to visit archaeological and cultural sites," said Wang.
The advent of Chinese visitors in Greece also serves another major objective of Greek tourism policy, which is the expansion of its season. Wang pointed out that "unlike the visitors from Europe, who mostly arrive from spring to fall, travelers from China choose periods throughout the year, including holidays such as the Chinese Spring Festival, or lunar New Year, and the week-long National Day holiday, that expand the Greek tourism season."