Will Greece be the new European hotspot for Chinese tourists?

When our clients ask us how to influence Chinese tourists’ destination choice, we often recommend working with KOLs or Key Opinion Leaders. If they have bigger budgets, we suggest that they work with a celebrity ambassador. And sometimes we joke that, if they really want to put their destination on the map, perhaps they can persuade President Xi to come on a state visit.

This year, Greece did exactly that as the Chinese President touched down in Athens to discuss trade and investment with Greece’s Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

Historically, destinations boom following a successful state visit. After President Xi drank a pint of beer with David Cameron in a British pub and had a selfie taken with Sergio Aguero at Manchester City in 2015, Chinese tourism to the UK really took off. We have seen state visits as a catalyst for tourism arrivals to many other countries too, such as Fiji and New Zealand in 2014. We can assume that the positive PR surrounding this visit to Greece, and the huge support for China-Greece relations expressed by Mitsotakis, will be well received in China, catapulting Greece into the consideration set for a summer holiday.

Once the keywords start being tapped into Mafengwo and Qyer, it won’t be long before aspirational Chinese FIT travellers realise that Greece has got it all.

From the ancient history of Athens, Olympia, and Delphi, to the stunning scenery of Meteora and the Mani to the crystal waters and sundrenched, whitewashed villages of the Greek islands, you have the perfect ingredients for a Chinese tourist’s dream; a multi-centre, experiential holiday, with history, beauty, and some very shareable back drops. Not to mention some of the most famous mythological stories and delicious dishes in Europe to feast upon.

But apart from the ensuing publicity generated by a state visit, improved air transport links are also a common result of such visits, and this one seems to be no different. 

The most important factor here is the opportunity presented by codesharing.  Greece has a unique geographical make up with a huge number of delightful islands, secondary towns and cities, and other areas of natural beauty and historical significance. In order to bring tourists and citizens to all corners of Greece, the country has a very large network of internal flights operated by Aegean Airlines. Once these domestic flights start to link up with international flights coming direct to Athens from Beijing (and potentially other airports in China), suddenly the whole of Greece becomes accessible to the Chinese tourist.  And that is what the two leaders’ Memorandum of Understanding will provide for. If all goes to plan, a codeshare agreement could be adopted between Air China and Aegean Airlines, meaning passengers from Beijing will be able to reach major Greek tourism destinations such as Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, Corfu, and Halkidiki much more easily. 

The MOU will also allow for an increase in the number of flights between Greece and China. At present, there are only three direct flights per week from China into Athens, flying from Beijing on Air China, although up to 14 are permitted. Once the new agreement is implemented, airlines will be allowed to operate up to 35 flights per week. And, with the codeshares in place, there could be enough demand to justify the increases.

In the first nine months of 2018, Chinese arrivals to Greece grew by 22%, making China the fastest growing market for tourism to Greece. It is expected that similar growth will be seen once the summer figures emerge for 2019. Whilst reported numbers are still relatively small at around 200,000 per year, it is widely agreed that these figures are understated due to the large number of people entering Greece on a visa to another EU country as part of a multi-centre tour. 

The most famous island is the picturesque, romantic Santorini, widely photographed and admired by honeymooners and bloggers alike, but other islands such as nearby Mykonos and Greece’s largest island, Crete, are also popular and gaining traction on the major travel platforms and within itineraries. Of course, Athens and the wonderous Acropolis, will also feature on the itinerary. 

We expect to see a huge upturn in interest for Greece from China next year. Its popularity with honeymooners also provides an additional opportunity for Greece’s luxury resorts, as Chinese honeymooners are allowed to take a longer holiday, giving plenty of time to explore and stay. And the Chinese national holiday, Golden Week, in October also presents a great opportunity to extend the summer season, especially for those islands like Crete and Kos which remain sunny and warm well into mid-October. 

If you are interested in finding out how China Travel Outbound can help you promote your Greek region, resort, attraction or hotel to the Chinese, please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you. 

For more information about China Travel Outbound, please visit www.chinatraveloutbound.com or contact us.

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Senior digital agency specialist joins China Travel Outbound

Travel PR and marketing agency, China Travel Outbound (CTO), has recruited senior digital specialist, Ed Lamb, to head up its client services division.

Lamb has nearly two decades’ experience on agency management teams and joins CTO from the award-winning Brighton digital agency, Propellernet, where he worked for 9 years, leading pitch wins with new blue-chip clients such as Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and McArthurGlen.   Prior to that Lamb played a key role within TMW’s management team, developing their digital offering as TMW (now TMW Unlimited) successfully evolved from an offline DM model to an online focused approach, with digital revenues quadrupling in his 3 years there.

Lamb’s appointment comes at an exciting time for the Chinese specialist as they enter their sixth year of trading, now working with over 20 clients in the tourism industry within the UK and Europe, and experiencing double digit annual growth. 

CTO has recently added Visit Copenhagen to its list of clients, and Lamb will play a key role in further international expansion and in developing new products to serve the needs of the agency’s customers.

Helena Beard, Founder and Managing Director of China Travel Outbound, said,

“I am thrilled to be working with Ed. He comes to us with a great track record in building successful agencies and his digital experience will be invaluable in our future plans.”

Ed Lamb said, “It’s a fantastic time to get involved with China Travel Outbound given the excellent base that has been put in place.   I can’t wait to work with Helena and the rest of the team to build on that and deliver the next phase of growth, increasing Chinese tourism revenues for all our clients.” 

For more information about China Travel Outbound, please visit www.chinatraveloutbound.com

Editors’ Notes: 

China Travel Outbound is a specialist travel PR and Marketing agency with offices in Brighton and Beijing. The agency’s clients include VisitBrighton, Royal Museums Greenwich, English Heritage, LNER and City Cruises. For more information, please contact Helena Beard at [email protected]

Video interview: ‘Chinese PR tips with Vivienne Song’

Effective PR is essential in order to be successful in the outbound Chinese tourism market. 

Forming great working relationships with the Chinese media and Chinese KOLs is a complete game changer in terms of promoting a destination to the outbound Chinese tourist market. Both the Chinese media and KOLs have the power to connect with a wider Chinese audience in order to market a destination so that the appeal of that destination will grow significantly. 

But how do you really work with the Chinese media? And who are the main media outlets in China for travel?

In this video Vivienne Song, the Manager of our Beijing office, sits down to discuss some top tips on Chinese PR and working effectively with the Chinese travel media.  

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Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner 2019

The third annual Chinese Tourism Leaders’ Dinner, held on the eve of World Travel Market London 2019, was a huge success. Hosted by China Travel Outbound and Capela China, the event marks the beginning of the international travel event and brings together all the movers and shakers of the British tourism industry who are making a difference to growing the inbound market of Chinese visitors to the UK.

We were extremely proud to welcome our clients, London North Eastern Railway (LNER), as our sponsor for the event this year. Laetitia Beneteau, the Leisure Sales and Distribution Manager at LNER, provided our guests with a fascinating insight into how LNER has been working closely with the China Travel Outbound team to bring high profile Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) to experience the wonderful train journey up the East Coast from London to Scotland over the past 18 months. 

We were also joined by senior representatives from the travel companies, attractions and destinations who are leading the way in promoting Britain to the Chinese. Some of these very special guests included VisitScotland, Visit York, City Cruises, Gatwick Airport, Royal Museums Greenwich and English Heritage. We were absolutely thrilled that everyone could come together and celebrate the future of Chinese tourism in the UK. Of course, we celebrated in the most appropriate fashion – over a delicious Chinese feast at a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, London. Everyone had a wonderful evening, and we cannot wait to host this event again next year. 

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