Visa free travel boosts Chinese tourists to Albania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 13, 2018 17:51

Visa free travel boosts Chinese tourists to Albania

Story Highlights

  • “The greatest impression we had were the people. They were so friendly and simple," says Ding Jian, one of the Chinese tourists who visited Albania last August together with his wife and son, taking advantage of the 90-day visa free travel that Albania is offering to Chinese citizens for seven months until late 2018

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TIRANA, Sept. 13 – The visa free travel that Albania offered to Chinese tourists this year has had a positive impact on increasing the number of tourists from the world’s second largest economy and the largest source of outbound tourists.

Although still modest considering the huge potential and traditional Albania-China ties, the number of Chinese tourists to Albania rose to more than 8,600 until early July 2018, a 50 percent hike compared to the first half of 2017, according to the Chinese embassy in Tirana.

The hike comes as Albanian authorities also included China on the list of countries whose citizens can visit Albania without visas this year after more than 10,000 Chinese citizens visited Albania in 2017, almost double compared to the previous year.

The visa waiver allows Chinese tourists to visit Albania from April 1 to October 31, 2018 and stay in the country for up to 90 days, benefiting Albania’s rapidly growing tourism industry and potential Chinese tourists to the tiny Balkan country which in the 1960s and 70s was the key ally of then-communist Albania and has now emerged as one of the top investors and trading partners.

An entire generation of Chinese people who grew up with Albanian movies for about two decades until the late 1970s and have now retired are the most likely segment to visit Albania, considering their ongoing nostalgia for Albania.

The potential is huge as China had an estimated 127 million outbound tourists spending more than $110 billion in 2017, ten times the Albanian GDP, and managing to attract only a tiny portion of Chinese tourists would have huge benefits for Albania’s economy, which remains one of Europe’s poorest.

Regional package holidays, as Western Balkan countries are already planning, could also be more appealing to Chinese tourists considering the small size of six EU aspirant regional countries but with emerging coastal and mountain destinations and a variety of civilizations and cultural heritage dating back to ancient times.

 

Chinese tourist amazed

Ding Jian is one of the Chinese tourists who visited Albania last August together with his wife and son, taking advantage of the 90-day visa free travel Albania is offering to Chinese citizens for seven months until late 2018.

The manager of a hotel catering company in his home town of Hangzhou, a city of some 9.5 million residents in East China, Ding Jian said he was amazed by his two-week stay in Albania.

“The greatest impression we had were the people. They were so friendly and simple,” Jian tells China Radio International in the local Albanian service

The Chinese tourist spend his holidays at Kavaja beach, central Albania, but also visited Tirana and the historic town of Kruja.

“In order to get used to the Albanian lifestyle, we went for a coffee as soon as we stepped down the plane. Then we came to Kavaja which has beautiful beaches with soft and natural sand and cheap umbrellas, sunbeds and rooms,” he is quoted as saying.

“We noticed that Albanians are happy people despite their living conditions. Before visiting Albania, I read on the web that the economic situation in the country is not very good, but when we came here we noticed expensive cars and taxes,” he adds.

The Chinese tourist says his wife also liked the Albania holidays a lot and that his 13-year-old son said he would like to study in Albania, where Chinese language and culture is promoted by a Confucius Institute in Tirana.

Speaking about food, Ding Jian said what he loved most in Albania was Italian-style wood-fired pizzas, fish and seafood risotto. “I can say that the food is much different from Chinese one. My job consists in catering for hotels and that’s why I am familiar with Western food. But as a common Chinese, I will switch back to my own cuisine in the next few days. I am thinking about introducing the Chinese to pizzas and seafood risotto,” he says.

“I think the hotel standard in Albania is quite good, and even better compared to Chinese hotels of the same level. What I suggest is increasing the variety of Chinese food at restaurants as food is very important to common Chinese. If I am given the opportunity, I would like to invest in Albania’s food industry because there are few Chinese restaurants there,” says Ding Jian, adding that he would like to explore southern Albania Riviera in his next Albania trip.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 13, 2018 17:51