NATIONAL INSTITUTION FOR THE ORGANISATION OF EXHIBITIONS, CONGRESSES AND CULTURAL EVENTS

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The conclusions of the International Conference of the 33rd Philoxenia titled 'Asian Tourism: Greece as a Destination and as a European Gate'

Greece can become a destination and entry gate for Asian travellers, provided it works in a continuous, consistent and methodical manner over the next 3 to 5 years. This was the main conclusion of the International Tourism Conference of the 33rd Philoxenia titled ‘Asian Tourism: Greece as a Destination and as a European Gate’. The Asian markets and, in particular, the Chinese market present the highest growth rates in terms of outgoing tourism, both at the level of travellers and, more importantly, at the level of travel expenses.

China already holds first place among the countries with the highest travel expenses, amounting, according to World Tourism Organisation data for 2016, to USD 261 billion, much higher than the USA at second place with USD 124 billion and Germany in third place with USD 81 billion.

Europe welcomes approximately 12% of Asian tourists travelling abroad, while Greece is a destination for a very small number of Asian tourists, which is disproportionate to its popularity in Asia and particularly China. Our country, as an important part of both the Maritime Silk Road and the Western Silk Road, in the context of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative of the Chinese government, is in a good starting place to penetrate the Asian markets - and the Chinese market, in particular.

The first step has already taken place at the political level, following recent contacts between the two governments; what must immediately follow is a systematic approach to the Asian market, starting with China, which is expected to send over 25 million tourists to Europe over the next 5 years, who will spend approximately USD 35 billion.

The next steps and necessary requirements are the facilitation of access to visas and the increase in air connections between Greece and Asia. The recent commencement of the direct connection between Beijing and Athens by Air China, the announcement of Qatar Airways for the connection between Doha and Thessaloniki in 2018, as well as the plans of Athens International Airport to increase the number of connections to Asia are supporting the penetration effort, which must also benefit from the declaration of 2018 as the EU-China Year of Tourism.The benefits of this initiative for Greece will be maximised through a public-private partnership.

This partnership must aim at the creation of a marketing plan that will include specific geographical and product areas that will be the result of research, in cooperation with Chinese companies that are familiar with the market. In any event, considering the size of this market, the endeavour must remain continuous, consistent and methodical, and positive results may appear even within three years.