China drawn to Greek sites

Greek Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos recently took steps to open up the local tourism market to millions of Chinese holidaymakers after visiting the Asian country, where he signed a cooperation agreement with his Chinese counterpart. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), China, just a few years from now, will comprise the fourth-largest market in terms of tourists seeking holidays abroad – a number which is expected to reach 100 million people by 2020. Today, estimates place 30 to 40 million Chinese tourists in higher economic groups that can be classified as potential high-income holidaymakers. The Chinese are free to visit only government-approved destinations, a factor that increases the importance of the availability of a direct flight linking Greece and China for the cooperation agreement recently signed to be realistic. Greece’s Tourism Ministry also aims to set up two offices in China, one in Shanghai and another in Beijing. The Chinese are apparently showing increased interest in Greek culture. The packages that are to be offered to the Chinese market will provide tours of archaeological sites after arrival in the Greek capital. The Olympic Games is another reason in favor of the two nations developing ties at this level, as Beijing is to host the world’s largest sporting event in 2008. Another possible link between Greece and China will appear should Thessaloniki host the EXPO 2008, as Shanghai is also seen as a possible host for the event in 2010. The cooperation agreement stresses the need to boost Olympic Games-related tourism. The two ministers also agreed to redefine the current Greek-Chinese tourism agreement after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games in order to take into account the changing markets in the two countries hosting the Olympic Games. During his visit to China, Avramopoulos also watched a part of the Olympic torch relay.