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SETE Chief: Chinese Market is a Great Opportunity, Big Challenge

Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) Yiannis Retsos spoke at the 5th Airport Chief Executives’ Symposium (ACES).

Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) president Yiannis Retsos spoke at the 5th Airport Chief Executives’ Symposium (ACES).

Improving air connectivity between Greece and China, creating additional visa centers in areas other than Beijing and Shanghai and developing customized products are key to increase the number of Chinese travelers to Greece,  the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, said during the 5th Airport Chief Executives’ Symposium (ACES), recently held in Athens.

The Chinese market is “a great opportunity and a big challenge”, Retsos said adding that the recent launch of a direct flight between the two countries by Air China and the potential of a new air connection in 2018 by another airline, are steps towards the right direction. “There is a possibility that China Eastern will start a direct route between Athens and Shanghai in 2018,” Retsos announced during the symposium.

Organized by the Athens International Airport (AIA), the 5th ACES titled “Western Threats and Eastern Promises”, focused on the risks of Brexit and the opportunities that emerge from the Chinese market for airports and destinations.

The Chinese opt for Greece

During the symposium, Retsos made it clear that Greece is included in the top tourism destinations in Southern Europe for the Chinese, with Athens, Santorini and Crete being among the most popular.

Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) president Yiannis Retsos.

Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE) president Yiannis Retsos.

According to data issued by the Greek consulate in China, more than 56,000 Chinese visited Greece in 2016. “Given the fact that many Chinese tourists visit Greece through other Schengen countries, it is more than certain that the number of Chinese visitors surpassed 110,000,” Retsos said. Still, the figure is small compared to the total of 10 million that visit Europe every year.

According to Retsos, Chinese travelers mostly visit Greece in May, October and December, thus assist the tourism sector’s efforts to extend the tourism season. Moreover, high-income young professionals is the main group leading outbound tourism demand in China.

A Chinese tourist taking a “selfie” at the Archaeological Site of Akrotiri of Thera, Santorini.

AIA aims to attract more Chinese visitors to Athens

In regards to Athens, the number of Chinese travelers constitutes approximately 4.5 percent of a total of 5 million visitors expected by the end of the year, the airport’s CEO, Dr Yiannis Praschis said, adding that 39 percent of the trips between Greece and China are made for business and 49 percent for leisure. He also underlined that the Chinese spend on average 136 euros within the airport premises, whereas other nationalities spend 60 euros.

Furthermore, Paraschis announced the airport’s partnership with Alipay, a payment system which will further facilitate Chinese travelers when visiting Greece. Moreover, the airport has developed Chinese-speaking services, while looking into ways of further customizing its food and beverage services to meet the demand of travelers from China.

About the Author
Eleftheria has worked for several financial newspapers, magazines and websites during the past 19 years. Between 2004 and 2014 she worked as a radio producer, reporter and presenter for the Greek and English language program of “Athina 9.84 FM”. She also has hands-on experience in the MICE industry.

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