Chinese tourism to Greece has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. Local tourism professionals estimate an even stronger rise for the immediate future, provided a few basic measures are initiated. They remind that European countries have begun a race to attract as many Chinese tourists as possible after the agreement between the EU and China that allows the Chinese to travel freely in the community.
The Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agencies, however, says that despite the current prospects, the growth of incoming tourism from China is facing serious problems that could impede the plan to attract more Chinese tourists.
First and foremost, it says 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,” says the association’s president, Yiannis Evangelou.
Another problem, he says, is the issuing of Schengen visas. Although the association cooperates with the foreign ministry to facilitate such procedures and solve other serious problems, more is needed in order for tourists not to be disappointed. The behavior of staff that screens points of entry has also been a problem, he adds.
Due to the lack of Greek guides who speak Chinese, the association has also asked for special licenses to be given to Chinese people who have permits to work in Greece to be employed as guides. As well, Mr. Evangelou suggests that Greek travel agencies should have minibuses to serve small groups of tourists so drivers can provide sightseeing information during trips.
Other needs that the association considers important include Chinese speakers to help agencies with service and an option for Chinese food as part of hotel menus.
The association says the majority of Chinese visitors have a preference to visit only one destination per trip, have a great interest in cruises, have a steadfast interest in the particulars of Greek history, and have an intense interest in culture.