EU-China Tourism Year has helped to boost interest in the eastern countries of the European Union.
Europe is still a favourite among Chinese outbound travellers, but it is niche destinations such as the Baltic countries that are now seeing high growth from the Chinese market.
The EU-China Tourism Year in 2018 has borne fruit for destinations in Europe, which saw 4% more Chinese arrivals in the first eight months of 2018.
Forward bookings from China to EU countries for the rest of the year are 4.7% up from this time last year. But other estimates put the increase at closer to 10%, buoyed up by explorations to the eastern parts of the European Union.
“Eastern-Central Europe, especially the Baltic states, have seen great growth. In fact, we have already seen Chinese visitors’ footprints spread beyond key cities through the EU’s promotions of destination countries like Slovenia, Czech and Poland,” Lu Jun, general manager of tourism company CITS Group Shanghai, tells TTG Asia.
“The Chinese have learned more about them as these countries created [dedicated marketing] to woo Chinese.”
The Baltic republic of Latvia has seen especially rapid growth from China.
“Chinese visitors have doubled in number every three years and the number grows 30% year by year,” says Raimonds Aleksejenko, deputy state secretary at Latvia’s Ministry of Economy.
“The Baltic countries expect to welcome 60,000 more visitors per year. It’s vital for small and second-tier countries like us to have cooperative platforms as visitors are coming to the Baltic Sea region to see Warsaw, Helsinki and the Baltic states, so we need to work together to provide a coordinated package.”
The growth in interest in lesser-known countries is also explained by favourable factors like visa easing, growth of disposable income and the increase in direct flights, thinks Qian Jiannong, chairman and chief executive of Fosun Tourism Group.
“Europe is currently our key market and accounts for 48% of our business. After taking full control of Club Med in 2015, our company also invested in Thomas Cook. […] We work with these two big European players and learn from them how to increase our expertise.”
While about 80% of Chinese traffic goes to big cities in Europe, there is growing interest in lesser-known areas and the company continues to open more resorts offering in-depth experiences, he explained.
“As with our skiing village or beach resorts, guests do not just stay inside as we provide new products such side-line tour programmes to explore areas outside our premises.”