A senior Greek official said on Wednesday that she wants her country to become Chinese tourists’ number one destination in Europe after the Chinese tourist arrivals in Greece increased by 70 percent in 2014.
Addressing the 3rd Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum hosted in Athens, Greek Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, along with other key Greek tourism bodies’ officials, invited more Chinese people to visit Greece, pledging to redouble efforts to facilitate the issuance of visas and open more direct flights between the two countries.
“We would like to see an increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Greece each year. We would like to see Greece becoming your number one choice of destinations in Europe,” Kountoura told China-Greece Tourism Cooperation Seminar, one of the highlights of this year’s Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum.
Greek and Chinese state officials and industry representatives said they would explore ways to unlock the great potential of sea tourism on a bilateral and international level.
Speakers and delegates from both sides who participated in the seminar organized by the Chinese Embassy in Greece and Hainan Provincial authorities, stressed the need for greater cooperation among all stakeholders to further boost ties between the two countries and people in the sea tourism sector as well to the benefit of Greece, China and the world.
At a seminar organized for the first time by China during Posidonia, one of the most prestigious Sea tourism events in the East Mediterranean, with about 700 delegates and exhibitors from over 20 countries, Hainan Province officials presented the yachting and cruise industries of the island and investment opportunities in this field.
In 2014 more than 100 million Chinese travelled overseas. Despite the impressive increase of the number of Chinese tourists visiting Greece in recent years, the 100,000 Chinese who visited Greece last year (70 percent more than that in 2013) still account for only 0.5 percent of foreign visitors to Greece annually.
In order to attract more Chinese tourists in the future Kountoura said that Greece aims to address issues, such as the flight connectivity barriers, by increasing the number of direct flights between Chinese hub cities and Greek tourist destinations from one last year to at least three this year during high tourism season.
On China’s part, Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli praised the bilateral efforts made to strengthen collaboration between the two countries in all sectors, including sea tourism.
He appeared confident that sea tourism can become a very significant growth point in future Sino-Greek cooperation.
“Today the great sea can become the blue paradise for the mutual exploration, development, prosperity. I am certain that our great expectations will become a reality,” he said.
Addressing the event Ambassador Zou stressed that the participation of the Chinese delegation in the Athens forum was one more strong sign of China’s commitment to further develop its strategic relationship with Greece, including in the sea tourism market.
Success will come by combining the comparative advantages of the two sides, he said, encouraging business cooperation, cultural projects and people-to-people exchanges between Greeks and Chinese.
The ambassador noted that Greece could attract mainly three target groups among Chinese travelers as a first step: newlyweds, students and the elderly.
Kountoura said she will travel to China for a third time in June to attend Beijing’s international tourism exhibition to promote bilateral cooperation in the hope of further boosting Greece’s tourism industry which is a main pillar of Greece’s economy accounting for 20 percent of the country’s GDP.
Lu Junhua, Vice Governor of the People’s Government of Hainan Province, who also delivered a speech during the seminar expressing optimism for further collaboration between the two sides, extended an invitation to Kountoura to also visit Hainan.
“Hainan welcomes all friends from Greece and the world to come to our island for business or vacations,” Lu said.