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Madrid airport hopes to do better at attracting valuable Chinese tourists

By BO LEUNG | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-12-04 10:21

The Chinese tourism market is huge business and as the demand for air travel grows, international airports have been revamping to cater to visitors from China.

Madrid-Barajas Airport

To tap into the lucrative Chinese mainland market, Madrid-Barajas Airport has started working on plans to better accommodate Chinese tourists.

Last year, Chinese travelers made 150 million visits overseas, a rise of 14.7 percent from 2017, according to the China Tourism Academy. The China Outbound Tourism Research Institute predicts that overseas trips will increase to more than 400 million by 2030.

According to Spanish newspaper, El Pais, Madrid-Barajas Airport will work with Spanish-Chinese relations consultancy company Henkuai in a bid to provide relevant services to Chinese travelers.

A spokesperson from AENA, the Spanish airport authority, told the paper the organization is carrying out a series of refurbishments to cater to visitors from China, adding that they are "highly valued visitors because of their growth potential and high spending".

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Chinese tourists spent $277.3 billion overseas in 2018, up from around $10 billion in 2000.

Chinese social media platform WeChat has more than 1 billion subscribers and many use it for mobile payments and banking.

WeChat Pay is now accepted at World Duty Free stores at Madrid-Barajas Airport and it is likely other forms of payment including Alipay and UnionPay will soon be accepted as well to accommodate technology-savvy Chinese shoppers.

Carlos Sentis, general director of Henkuai, told El Pais, the airport wants "to optimize Chinese tourists".

"This doesn't happen just by translating the signs and menus. You have to have Chinese workers in the shops, hotel receptionists should speak Chinese, tour guides as well," Sentis explained. "Communication is key, without that they'll feel lost. If we want to attract them, we have to accept their differences and make their experience here as comfortable as possible."

The airport is also understood to be planning to introduce a space exclusively for Chinese meals in the VIP lounges. And, in future, carts carrying hot Chinese food will be at the boarding gates of airlines that fly to China.

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