ECONOMY

Greeks up efforts to attract more Chinese tourists to the country

Chinese tourism to Greece has grown by 48 percent over the last few years, with estimates expecting an even stronger rise in the future. According to Yiannis Evangelou, president of the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies (HATTA), European countries have begun a race to attract as many Chinese tourists as possible after a deal between the EU and China allowing the Chinese to travel freely in the bloc. HATTA is expecting a Chinese delegation of travel agency representatives to come to Greece at the end of March in the context of the association’s contacts with China. Evangelou notes that despite the current prospects, the growth of incoming tourism from China is facing serious problems that could thwart the plan to attract more Chinese tourists. There’s the lack of a direct air link between the two countries. Every week there are 130 direct flights from China to European cities, but none to Greece. Another problem is the issuing of Schengen visas. HATTA cooperates with the Foreign Ministry to facilitate such procedures and solve other serious problems. Yet Evangelou says more is needed for tourists not to be disappointed. The behavior of staff who monitor points of entry has also been a problem. Due to the lack of Greek guides who speak Chinese, HATTA has also asked for special licenses to be given to Chinese people who have permits to work in Greece to be employed as guides. Evangelou adds that Greek travel agencies should have minibuses to serve small groups of tourists so drivers can provide sightseeing information during trips. The association prioritizes the needs of Chinese tourists in the following order: Chinese speakers to help them with service, an option for Chinese food as part of their menus, a preference to visit only one destination per trip, a great interest in cruises, and an abiding interest in the particulars of Greek history, with an intense interest in culture.