Greece aims to attract between 500,000-600,000 Chinese tourists each year for the next two years, Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said on Friday, while addressing an event at the Athens Chamber of Tradesmen. Chinese officials, she noted, put this number even higher at one million.
The minister was speaking at an event entitled “Alitrip in Greece: Boosting incoming tourism from China to Greece” organised by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the tradesmen’s chamber to present the Chinese travel platform to Greece. The aim, according to Kountoura, was to capitalise on the contacts between the Greek and Chinese governments, working in cooperation with all the agencies involved, from local government to private businesses.
Presenting the Alitrip platform – part of the Alibaba group – was Alitrip Vice President for European Markets Kai Cui, while 50 top Greek tourism-sector companies and agencies attended. Given that the Alibaba “ecosystem” currently has more than 500 million Chinese users and the Alitrip platform is one of the largest in China, the company’s executives believe that a target of one million tourists to Greece over three years can be met.
Kountoura noted that the number of Chinese tourists to Greece had risen almost ten-fold in the last two years, from 15,000-20,000 in 2015 to some 150,000 at present. “This is a significant increase even if this number does not yet satisfy us, given that the number of Chinese travelling to Europe are 15 million,” she added. A key to further growth in tourism would be the start of a direct flight from Athens to Beijing in the autumn, Kountoura said.
The minister also referred to efforts to open new tourism markets, such as South Korea, China, the Middle East, India and Brazil and “rekindle” existing markets, such as Russia and the United States.
“In the last two years, the growth of Greek tourism was at 7 pct – or double the world average. In 2016 we had 28 million arrivals (with cruises) and increased luxury tourism by more than 10 pct. We had a spectacular start to 2017, with prebookings and occupancy in hotels exceeding all expectations from all markets,” she said.
Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura sent a message to investors and businessmen operating in sea tourism development to explore the potential for investments in Greece.
Kountoura was addressing the Posidonia Events on Wednesday.
She pointed out that the development of Piraeus port and the upgrading of the country’s airports contribute to the further development of the maritime tourism industry.
Focusing on the government’s strategy for tourism 365 days a year, Kountoura said that maritime tourism is particularly important. Indeed, last year, as she said, cruise visitors amounted to 3.3 million.
With a 16,000 km coastline, and 6,000 islands, 100 of which are accesible, Greece is an attractive cruise destination. Kountoura stressed that the promotion of “marinas” and “home porting” are at the top of the ministry’s agenda.
On his part, Yiannis Retsos, in his first speech as chairman of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), stressed the importance of the security that should be taken into account by companies that want to invest in Greece. He explained that Greece is considered one of the most secure countries, according to surveys carried out at an international level. Referring to the factors that will influence the tourist developments, he mentioned the conclusion of the programme review and the end of uncertainty. He underlined that the country must return to normality and this should not happen with new measures that will plague the tourism industry. Retsos also called for the modernization of marinas and port infrastructure, as well as for the cooperation of all the involving parties in order to meet the needs of a cruise sector.