Greece Expects New Flood of Chinese Tourists in 2019

FILE - Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Spata, near Athens. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

Already on a roll of successive record-busting tourist years, 2019 could see a big bump of Chinese visitors with ties between the country growing and after some 200,000 Chinese poured into Greece this year.

The first nine months of 2018 showed a hike of 22 percent in tourists from China, with direct air flights helping, and the boom expected to continue, Greek and Chinese officials told the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Ioannis Plexousakis, the head of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) office in Beijing said the interest remains keen among Chinese to come to Greece, with Chinese companies gaining a foothold in major sectors, including the port of Piraeus.

Wang Chao, the Cultural Attache at the Chinese Embassy in Athens told the news agency that, “We expect a further increase in 2019, after the healthy rise recorded this year,” witeh the island of Santorini among the biggest attractions, especially for weddings.

Greek authorities have trouble though tracking the exact numbers because some Chinese are using 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 EU 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.

He said Greece wants to lure Chinese travelers as well through cruise tourism, sports, health and the tourism of meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions, to lure big package events as well.

“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 Plexousakis.

The GNTO also plans 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.