Chinese travelers flock to Greece
Evangelos Sipsas

Chinese tourists are traveling again. Along with the capital Athens and its ancient ruins such as the Acropolis, top of many people's wish list for places to see in Greece is the island of Santorini, its turquoise waters.

That's where Lan Xiaocheng's travel agency comes in. It's been preparing for this moment since the COVID pandemic struck.

After three years of closures, China is fully reopening its borders by allowing travel agencies to provide outbound group tours to 60 countries.

The ancient Acropolis citadel is Greece's most well-known cultural landmark. /CFP
The ancient Acropolis citadel is Greece's most well-known cultural landmark. /CFP

The ancient Acropolis citadel is Greece's most well-known cultural landmark. /CFP

Greece is among those on the list expecting Chinese tourists, but also sending visitors to China.

"So far we have only received a few groups and they are mainly business people, participating in exhibitions and academic exchanges, but now we are promoting tourist trips. We are offering wedding tours, summer camps, academic exchanges, and site touring," said head of Athens Silk Road International Travel Agency, Lan Xiaocheng.

In a further relaxation of controls, earlier this year the Chinese government allowed travel agencies to provide outbound group tours.

Greece expects to receive almost three times more visitors than before the pandemic, increasing optimism among tourism businesses.

In December the first direct flight from Shanghai, landed in Athens, with Air China later adding flights from Beijing.


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Before the lockdown, around 200,000 Chinese tourists visited Greece, but the Ministry of Tourism expects that number to grow significantly.

"The numbers show how great the loss was for not having our friends from China or other countries that had restrictions," said Vice Minister of Tourism, Sofia Zacharaki. "As we now move into the era of post-pandemic travel, we do feel that the average spending will be increasing even more."

Zacharaki added: "In the past we've seen that the average spending from our friends was even double (that of) European travelers to Greece."

Three years ago the majority of visas issued to both Greek and Chinese travelers wanting to visit each other's countries were business or academic. But that picture appears to be changing.

Head of Athens Silk Road International Travel Agency, Lan Xiaocheng, told CGTN: "Greeks are mostly interested in cultural exchanges when visiting, like food, theater, and architecture. But It's going to take time for Greek tourists to visit China, to know what happened and make sure it's safe. But this year there is a better plan for tourists traveling from China to Greece, but Greece to China too. There are more direct flights between the two countries from many air carriers." 

Both countries are working hard to put measures in place to revive industries hit by the pandemic. And with both now open for business, it's hoped the tourism sector will thrive once again.


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