Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Sports events draw Chinese tourists to Europe

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This photo taken on June 26, 2024 shows a general view of the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. (Xinhua/Sun Fei)

BEIJING, July 10 (Xinhua) — Li Ao, a resident of Beijing, eagerly anticipates an exciting summer in Europe with the Paris Olympics following hot on the heels of Euro 2024.

Sporting thrills and dopamine delights are expected to entice more Chinese tourists to Europe this summer season, according to domestic travel agencies. Most Chinese watched the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar at venues in China, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summer travel bookings surged significantly, with trips to France seeing an 80 percent year-on-year increase, while bookings for travel to Germany more than doubled, according to a Ctrip report released on June 26.

Despite the fact that Japan, the Republic of Korea and Southeast Asian countries continue to be popular destinations, there has been a notable rise in long-haul trips to Europe, driven by events like Euro 2024 and the upcoming Paris Olympics, said the online travel service provider.

For Li, securing tickets to the women’s tennis singles final at the Paris Olympics was a huge relief. “My child loves tennis, and with summer vacation here, watching the tournament live is a stroke of luck for us.” He hopes the trip will create lasting memories for his child.

Recognizing the importance of sports in shaping character and instilling important values, Chinese parents are now encouraging their children to engage in physical activities as much as possible. This has been bolstered by government initiatives such as the inclusion of physical education in high school entrance examinations.

Ctrip data shows that hotel bookings in Paris during the Olympics have increased by 108 percent year-on-year since June, while flight bookings to the city have risen by 85 percent.

Euro 2024 has highlighted sports’ appeal among Chinese tourists. Qunar, an online travel service provider, reported a doubling of flight bookings to Germany during the football event and a 1.5-fold increase in hotel bookings, with prices up by 25 percent. Notably, searches for Berlin, the host city of the Euro 2024 final, on the platform have increased by 253 percent over the last week.

A corporate legal officer surnamed Ma recently returned from Germany, where he spent six times the normal ticket price to watch the Euro 2024 game between Slovenia and Denmark. Due to visa challenges during Euro 2024, he traveled via Barcelona, where he visited the FC Barcelona Museum and purchased football souvenirs for his son.

“Pity that my son was in school, so he missed the trip,” Ma said, adding that he plans to fulfill his 11-year-old son’s wish to visit Portugal, the home country of football legend Cristiano Ronaldo, next year.

CASCADING EFFECT ON NEIGHBORS

Euro 2024 and the Paris Olympics have not only boosted travel to Germany and France but also ignited interest in other European destinations, said Cheng Chaogong, a researcher at Tongcheng Travel.

Chinese tourism interest in Paris has increased the most, followed by Berlin, London, Madrid and Athens, according to Tongcheng Travel. Many group tour packages have sold out on the platform.

“Inquiries for chartered tours to France and neighboring countries significantly increased. Routes such as ‘France-Italy-Switzerland’ and ‘Netherlands-Belgium-Luxembourg-France’ are particularly popular,” said Li Jiang, a provider of European chartered tour services.

A corporate manager of overseas infrastructure projects surnamed Wang, however, has booked a mid-August tour to Nordic countries to avoid popular tourist attractions and the peak tourist seasons.

She will take her 70-year-old mother and two sons on the trip. Despite her extensive experience with overseas business travel, Wang opted for travel agency services for peace of mind. Given the recent unrest in Europe, she feels vulnerable to potential incidents while traveling abroad.

Her mother is a strong motivator for this trip. “After years of staying home due to COVID-19, it is crucial for her to explore while she is still physically able,” said Wang.

According to Tongcheng Travel, travel groups containing children constitute 33.8 percent of international flights during the 2024 summer holidays, while those including senior travelers account for 22.5 percent, with the latter up four percentage points year on year.

Citing these figures, Cheng forecasts a significant surge in the number of Chinese families traveling abroad with elderly members this summer. 

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