As Chinese tourists spread their wings, the benefits fall to all
The logistics of 6,400 tourists travelling together as a group are daunting enough; that they were mostly Chinese with specific requirements made it even more so. Not for French officials, though - they mobilised public services and tourism professionals to ensure the four-day stay was enjoyable. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius welcomed them, the Louvre museum was closed so that they could have a private tour and the luxury department store Galeries Lafayette was shut for a morning so that they could shop uninterrupted. The response is testament to the power of Chinese tourists and the international clamour for their spending cash.
Direct-marketing billionaire Li Jinyuan organised the record-breaking trip as a thank you to the staff of his global company, Tiens Group. There was an element of promotion involved but that is to be expected from someone who made his fortune from being a master salesman. His destination shortlist had originally included London and Rome, but French officials made the choice easy by smoothing travel plans, including booking 140 four- and five-star hotels in Paris and a further 79 in Cannes and the city-state of Monaco. That so many people were able to move together and see and do so much in limited time proves how welcome Chinese tourists have become.
With Chinese outbound tourist numbers last year reaching a record 107 million, 19.5 per cent more than 2013, the competition to attract them is fierce. The flat European economy has governments trying to outdo one another. Visa validity periods have been extended to multiple entry over three to five years and issuing times reduced to as little as 24 hours. Dim sum and congee have become staples on hotel restaurant menus, Chinese-language signs and brochures abound and special tour packages aimed specifically at the Chinese market have been rolled out.
The more Chinese travel, the better they and host countries will understand and appreciate one another. That is good for the travel industry, businesses and the enjoyment of Chinese.