As one of the few registered Chinese-English tour guides in Slovenia, Luka is brushing up on his spoken Chinese in anticipation of the hordes of Chinese tourists expected to arrive for the summer holidays. After three years of changing jobs, he could now count on the returning Chinese tourists for a much more stable job.
Brussels – After three years of changing jobs, Slovenian tour guide Luka is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first group of tourists from China, now that the COVID-19 pandemic situation has improved considerably.
As one of the few registered Chinese-English tour guides in Slovenia, Luka is warming up his spoken Chinese as droves of tourists from China are expected to arrive for the summer holidays.
In 2019, 13 million Chinese tourists will land in European Union (EU) member states, according to a report by the Brussels-based European Travel Commission (ETC).
This number has fallen sharply since the pandemic, until the reopening of European countries and the easing of China’s outbound travel restrictions.
At the beginning of this year, China reopened its outbound travel business. Currently, China allows group travel to 60 countries.At the end of March, Hungary welcomed its first group of Chinese tourists after three years of pandemic. The 22 Chinese visitors, who arrived in the country for a nine-day stay, were greeted by Hungarian government officials at Budapest Airport.
“This is my third visit to Hungary,” said Lou Zhiyuan, 60, who flew in from the Chinese city of Guangzhou and had just retired. She signed up for the tour as soon as the opportunity arose. Her last visit to Hungary was eight years ago.European tourism was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to recover quickly with the return of Chinese tourists.
Chinese tourists made 22.2 million overnight stays in the EU in 2019. Due to the pandemic, this number fell to 3 million in 2020 and further to 1.6 million in 2021, according to the EU’s statistical office Eurostat.
Before the pandemic, Croatia welcomed more than 300,000 visitors from China each year. “We will do everything to facilitate the arrival and stay of Chinese tourists in Croatia,” Kristjan Stanicic, director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, told Xinhua.
Direct flights between Athens and Shanghai will also be launched in December 2022, following the launch of direct flights between Athens and Beijing in 2017.
“We are a Chinese-ready airport,” said Ioanna Papadopoulou, director of communications and marketing at Athens International Airport (AIA), where virtual assistants help Chinese tourists with information in their own language. They can also use familiar payment methods they use at home in AIA’s duty-free shops.
According to the ETC, Chinese tourists are still rare in France, although before the pandemic it was the most popular destination for them outside Asia.In 2019, more than 2.4 million Chinese visited France, and Chinese tourists spent about 180 euros ($199.7) a day there, according to the ETC.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of our Chinese customers,” Ms Wang, owner of the New Shanghai restaurant near the Palace of Versailles, southwest of Paris, told Xinhua.
Not far away, the line of tourists waiting to enter the palace stretches nearly 100 metres, but only a few of them are Asian, mostly from Japan and South Korea.
“After three years of the pandemic, Chinese travel agencies have lost contact with European hotels and car rental companies. In the short term, it is difficult to return to the preferential prices we could offer them before the pandemic,” Liu Yuan, a travel agent in France, told Xinhua.
But for Luka, at least he could count on the returning Chinese tourists for a much more stable job.