Europe searches for charms to lure Chinese tourists

Thu Mar 7, 2013 5:57pm EST
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By Victoria Bryan and Clare Kane

BERLIN/MADRID (Reuters) - 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're 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 travelers 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.   Continued...

Chinese tourists take pictures of the Oktoberfest entrance during their visit of the famous Oktoberfest in Munich September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle