The EU remains an attractive destination for Chinese tourists, and while the U.K. is still the most popular looking at sheer numbers, Hungaryʼs 25.1% growth in arrivals in 2018 puts the country in third place in terms of relative growth, according to a press release from air travel analyst ForwardKeys.
Despite the relative slowdown in the Chinese economy and concerns about Brexit, Europeʼs popularity among Chinese tourists remains unbroken, according to the latest figures from the European Travel Commission (ETC) published in collaboration with ForwardKeys, which monitors 17 million flight bookings a day.
The data show there was a 5.1% year-on-year increase in Chinese arrivals at EU destinations during the entirety of 2018. The ETC says the latest figures show that the 2018 EU-China Tourism Year, designed to promote the EU as a tourism destination to the rapidly growing Chinese market, continues to deliver success.
"The 2018 EU-China Tourism Year initiative has been extremely successful, and we continue to see the benefits in 2019," says Eduardo Santander, executive director at the ETC. "The growth in Chinese travelers has been solid, and the near future, judging by current bookings, will see the EU continuing to increase its share of this valuable market, not just to traditional destinations, but lesser-known and emerging ones as well."
"Our findings confirm what a concerted effort to boost tourism can achieve. It also appears to have lasting effects, as we can see in the forward booking figures," adds ForwardKeys CEO Olivier Jager.
Over the course of 2018, the top three EU destinations in terms of volume of Chinese arrivals were the U.K. (up 2.4%), Germany (up 2.6%), and France (up 7.7%). The three fastest growing destinations were Croatia (up 45.7%), Estonia (up 35.8%), and Hungary (up 25.1%).
Forward bookings also look robust, according to the press release. As of December 31, 2018, Chinese bookings to the EU for the first four months of 2019 are 16.9% ahead of where they were at the end of the previous year. The numbers are well over the global trend, which is 9.3% ahead.
In the context of Brexit, it is worth noting that if the U.K. were excluded from the data, the EUʼs performance would appear even stronger, with arrivals in the whole of 2018 growing 5.8%, as opposed to 5.1% with the U.K. included. Similarly, looking ahead, forward bookings are 17.7% ahead for the first four months of 2019, measurably above the 16.9% rate with the U.K. included.