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Countries embrace returning Chinese travelers for Lunar New Year and beyond

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-12 08:14

A Chinese tourist poses for photos in a street in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 4, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]


Policymakers from global tourist destinations are keen to attract Chinese holidaymakers, not least with visa-free policies.

In a video message last week, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin warmly welcomed Chinese tourists after the two countries sealed a mutual visa exemption agreement, which will come into effect from March 1.

The Southeast Asian country aims to attract 8 million tourists from China, more than double the figure from 2023 and constituting 75 percent of the pre-pandemic peak recorded in 2019.

Singapore, which also signed a visa-free agreement with China last month, experienced a recovery in its tourism sector last year, with the Chinese mainland topping its tourist spending chart.

Malaysia's visa-free deal for Chinese started in December last year. The country hopes to attract 5-7 million Chinese visitors this year, almost double pre-pandemic levels.

"We are here in Nauru. If you look us up, we are a very small place on the map, but we have a very big heart," Charmaine Scotty, Nauru's minister for health and internal affairs, told Xinhua in an interview. "And we certainly welcome you to come to our island."

"We are creating a comprehensive tourism product that will move all Chinese visitors," said Dimitris Fragakis, secretary general of the Greek National Tourism Organization. He said more direct flights connecting Athens to Beijing and Shanghai are also scheduled to bolster travel.

The Indonesian government aims to attract 1 to 1.5 million tourists from China in 2024 by prioritizing programs to appeal to young Chinese travelers who crave authentic experiences.

"In Yogyakarta, for example, we have chocolate making and buffalo bathing. We want to invite them to experience these tourism activities," said Wisnu Sindhutrisno, director of regional tourism marketing from Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

"We are very much looking forward to 2024, the first normal year after 2019," said Daniela Chiani, director for Greater China at Switzerland Tourism. "We expect right now around 1 million to 1.2 million overnight stays from Greater China in 2024, or around 65 percent of the 2019 levels."

Jungfrau region expects the number of Chinese visitors to bounce back to 60 percent of pre-epidemic levels in 2024 and return to pre-epidemic levels in 2025, said Kessler.

Ivana Jelinic, president and CEO of the Italian National Tourist Board, projects that Chinese tourists visiting Italy will return to pre-pandemic levels, and their arrivals may even reach "new peaks" this year, starting from the Spring Festival holiday in China.

She believes that Chinese tourism is crucial for various tourism destinations in Italy, adding that the benefits can extend to all economic sectors impacted by an increase in incoming flows, including not only hospitality and direct services to tourists but also the entire sector of Made in Italy, retail, luxury, food and wine.

China, too, is enhancing its allure to foreign tourists by broadening its visa-free policies.

China's recent extension of the visa-free policy to Switzerland and Ireland, in addition to five EU countries and Malaysia, was hailed by the UN tourism body as a significant advancement in the global tourism industry's recovery. The resurgence of Chinese outbound tourism presents an opportunity to invigorate the global tourism and service industries while encouraging meaningful cross-border interactions and fostering greater mutual understanding.

A recent Reuters report noted Chinese travelers' appetite shift from shop-til-you-drop group tours to niche, flexible, and experience-based trips, for example, focusing on meditation, cooking, or photography. As quality of life heads up, the younger generation in the world's second-largest economy is leveling up their holiday as well.

"Promoting the building of a strong country and the great cause of national rejuvenation through a Chinese path to modernization is not only a bright road for the Chinese people to pursue a better and happier life but also a just one to promote world peace and development," said Chinese President Xi Jinping at a Spring Festival reception.

"The whole world has been waiting for China to open up more, and now Chinese tourists are coming back," UN World Tourism Organization secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili told Xinhua ahead of the International Tourism Fair. "At the same time, everyone wants to visit China, and its fantastic cultural heritage is well worth visiting."

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