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Europe searches for charms to lure Chinese tourists

Agencies | Updated: 2013-03-08 11:00

European countries will need to focus less on beach holidays and more on communist history, rolling landscapes and even poetic trees if they want to take advantage of growing numbers of tourists from China.

According to the China Tourism Academy, some 200 million Chinese could be travelling abroad annually by 2020, up from 82 million in 2012.

While the overriding image of the Chinese tourist in Europe is one of busloads of shoppers heading for the luxury boutiques in Paris and Milan, Europe must not get carried away by these stereotypes and think of other ways to tempt them on a long-haul flight, experts at the ITB travel fair in Berlin said.

"We've been thinking not like Chinese, but like Europeans," Eduardo Santander, the head of the European Travel Commission, which promotes tourism to the continent, told Reuters.

"Europe is still the number 1 tourism destination so far but that may dramatically change in 10 to 15 years if we don't change some patterns."

For Chinese tourists, the sun and beaches of the Mediterranean that are so popular with Brits, Germans and Russians hold little appeal, said TUI Travel CEO Peter Long.

Instead they want to visit places that hold historical relevance for their own culture, they enjoy classical music and, wanting to escape the smog back home, they appreciate a clear blue sky, Santander said, citing a study the group had done among Chinese web users.

Interesting places for Chinese travellers looking to explore communist history include the German city of Trier, the birthplace of Karl Marx and Montargis, a little-known town 60 miles south of Paris.

Chinese history lovers are keen to visit Montargis because it was the home of Deng Xiaoping during the 1920s and said to be the place where a group of Chinese students first proposed the idea of a communist party for China.

Furthermore, if you see groups of Chinese people admiring a willow tree at King's College, Cambridge, it is because it is mentioned in a much-loved modern poem 'On Leaving Cambridge' by Xu Zhimo.

Spanish dreams

With the euro zone crisis and austerity measures crimping travel budgets in Europe, it has become all the more urgent for countries like Spain and Greece to look outside their traditional British, Dutch and German source markets for income.

In Europe demand for cross-border travel is due to rise by only 2 percent in 2013, compared with 7 percent for Asia.

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