Greece eyes Chinese market

Greece yesterday took its first concrete step in reaching out to the Chinese tourist market with the issue of an album of Greek prints of the 18th and 19th century in the Chinese language. Ioannis Patellis, head of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), said the publication of the album in Chinese is part of the agency’s strategy of attracting Chinese tourists to Greece. Currently in the low thousands, with the majority of Chinese visitors visiting Greece for business related to shipping or the 2004 Olympic Games, the GNTO’s goal is to attract a million Chinese tourists in five years, Patellis told Kathimerini English Edition. Tang Zhenqi, China’s ambassador to Greece, said 12 million Chinese travel abroad annually, with the majority going to Hong Kong, southeast Asia, the USA and Australia. Chinese citizens are allowed to go only to countries designated as official tourism destinations by the government. He expressed the hope that Greece would shortly be added to the list of 19 sanctioned countries. Tang, however, pointed to delays and difficulties Chinese tourists face in getting visas for Greece. «This is a major problem between Greece and China,» he said. Greece’s archaeological attractions aside, Tang said the staging of the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008 should prove to be a strong drawing card for Chinese tourists and bring about greater cooperation between the two countries. Greece is seeking to broaden its markets, targeting Asian countries in particular, and expand its range of tourism products to alternative forms of tourism, in an effort to lengthen the tourism season and break its dependence on Western markets.

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