The world beckons for Chinese travelers
The South Pacific destination of Tahiti, Montenegro in Southern Europe, the Philippines' Bohol island, Serbia and the Philippines' Cebu are hot spots for Chinese tourists. [Photo provided to China Daily]
The world wants China to visit. Over 450 exhibitors from about 70 countries and regions joined the recent annual China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market expo in Beijing.
China is the world's largest outbound-tourism source. More than 122 million Chinese tourists headed overseas last year.
This has enticed destinations to pitch to Chinese and adopt such policies as easy visas.
Serbia became the first European country to offer visa-free entry to Chinese in a reciprocal agreement from Jan 15.
Chinese arrivals that month increased by over 100 percent compared with the previous January.
The country participated in the recent Beijing event.
"We're bringing more tour operators from Serbia to present various tour products," the National Tourism Organization of Serbia's acting director Marija Labovic says.
"The event offers a platform for us to further promote our visa-free policy. Serbia is a destination for a whole year, with activities such as bird-watching and wine-tasting. In summer, you can enjoy most of our great festivals. In winter, you can go skiing."
Chinese particularly enjoy the capital, Belgrade, she says. They visit museums and heritage sites like the Church of Saint Sava－one of the world's largest Orthodox churches.
Tourists can also trace the history of ancient Rome. About 17 Roman emperors were born in the current territory of Serbia.
She says older Chinese tourists like to see everything related to communist Yugoslavia, which broke apart in the early 1990s.
Serbia also draws young Chinese. Many travel independently.
It's promoting itself to Chinese as a leg of regional routes with such nearby nations as Montenegro.
"Serbia is located in the center of southeastern Europe, making it convenient to reach neighboring countries, such as Hungary, from our capital, Belgrade," she says.
She adds that Chinese travelers stay about three days in Serbia. Five days is her agency's goal.
Other countries are also planning to relax visas for Chinese.
Chinese arrivals to the Philippines reached roughly 675,700 last year, up nearly 38 percent over 2015. It hopes to attract 1 million Chinese this year.
China is its third-largest inbound-tourism source.
"We're also considering having visa-upon-arrival or visa-free (policies) for Chinese tourists," says Maricon Ebron, Tourism Promotions Board Philippines' deputy chief operating officer of promotion.
"One big question is: Are we ready to welcome the influx of Chinese tourists?" she says.
The board is chartering flights in major Chinese cities to increase airline capacity.
They're also promoting such emerging destinations as the Bicol region and enhancing its accommodation.
Philippine Airlines recently opened direct flights from Sichuan's provincial capital, Chengdu, to Cebu and Kalibo, which is a major hub for the popular destination Boracay Island.
"The key to increase the arrival of Chinese tourists is about the airline connectivity," she says.
"Once we create the demand, all the chartered flights will become regular, and then more tourists will go there."
The Philippines boasts over 7,000 islands with striking scenery and diverse cultures.
The Spanish and American colonization influenced the culture, siring such attractions as the UNESCO World Heritage Site Vigan, a city celebrated for its Spanish architecture, she says.
The South Pacific Tourism Organization also joined the exhibition with representatives from Tahiti, Samoa and New Caledonia.
New Caledonia is ambitious about entering the Chinese market to promote its natural beauty, biodiversity and coral reefs this year. The New Caledonia-based company Aircalin is planning to charter flights in Chinese cities before it opens routes to China in 2018.
The French territory receives roughly 1,000 Chinese tourists a year.
They enjoy its remote tranquility and fusion of romantic islands and metropolises, plus such activities as water sports, hiking and golf.
"Since last year, Tahiti started to promote its diverse culture, including Mana. As a symbol of Tahiti culture, Mana is believed to be a form of a spiritual energy or healing power," Tahiti Tourism's public relations manager in China, Tang Qi, says.
The peak season is the dry season from April to October.
"While overseas tourists like to make their travel plans three to six months in advance, Chinese travelers prefer to do so only one or two months ahead. It's better to visit Tahiti during the Spring Festival because it's not easy to book air tickets and hotel rooms in the National Day Holiday in October, when there are many overseas tourists," she says.
Celebrities from China and abroad visit for luxury and wedding settings, she adds.
Tahiti is about 50 kilometers from Tetiaroa, the atoll Marlon Brando purchased in the 1960s.
In March, former US president Barack Obama visited the island and stayed in the eco-friendly Brando Resort, which uses coconut oil to generate electricity.
Indeed, the world has many stories to share with Chinese travelers.