Since this February, Chinese tourist groups have been allowed to travel to Germany. The German tourist industry has been making the most of the new rules, offering both romantic castles and the speed of the Autobahn.
The number of Chinese tourists visiting Germany is on the rise.
Seductive advertising campaigns, depicting glossy images of Teutonic castles nestled in the foothills of the Alps, are designed to lure the new Chinese tourists to "Romantic" Germany. And with the German tourist board expecting some 600,000 overnight stays by Chinese in this year alone, the campaigns are evidently having the desired effect.
With such a massive growth market, China has become a breeding ground for big German tourism companies to launch Chinese ventures, such as the newly founded joint venture TUI China.
With the Chinese economy booming, and an increasing number of citizens actually able to afford a trip to Europe, Germany looks set to profit. Guido Brettschneider of TUI China said current statistics show that as many as 85 million Chinese citizens – more than the entire population of Germany – can now afford to travel abroad. "They are usually young people, between 25 and 40 years old. Europe is a very important destination for them, and we believe the number of guests will continue to rise in the future," Brettschneider told Deutsche Welle.
Getting their money's worth
For a week in Germany, Chinese tourists are generally looking at a sum of at least €1,000 ($1,170). That's a lot of money by Chinese standards, which is why they want to be sure they are getting their money's worth. For many Chinese visitors, that means doing more than simply seeing a few castles. One absolutely must-do activity on a standard trip to Germany is factory outlet shopping in southern Germany. But even that doesn't satisfy all the whims of these new tourists.
"The Chinese love cars, they love to travel as fast as possible, they love modern technology," said Brettschneider, adding the Chinese love the idea of the unrestricted speed limits on Germany's famous Autobahn.
TUI is planning to make the most of this passion for speed and modern technology, and from next year they will offer their tourists the chance to zip along the highways for themselves. It's clever seduction for visitors who are used to stubborn inner-city traffic jams and highway tolls and strict speed limits.
Only the best will do
Autobahn aside, the Chinese tourists expect the best when they shell out to come to Germany, and by and large they are not disappointed. They are put up in excellent hotels and chauffered around in state-of-the-art buses, but Brettschneider is quick to point out that Chinese tourists don't want to be overwhelmed with the unknown and the unfamiliar when they journey west.
"They generally want to eat Chinese food, and they have particular demands when it comes to hotel rooms. They expect to find such things as a kettle", he said. German hoteliers have some adapting to do to cater for their new guests, but Brettschneider believes they will rise to the challenge because it is quite clearly a massive growth market for them.
A growing trend
At the moment Chinese citizens are not allowed to travel to Europe alone unless they have a personal invitation and are granted a visa from Germany. Germany is the first large European country to which groups of Chinese tourists are allowed to travel to. But that is set to change next year, when a whole host of other European Union nations will open their borders to groups of Chinese tourists.
And although that could take the emphasis off Germany as the eager tourists head off to see the sights of other continental countries, most in Germany’s tourist industry are confident there are enough Chinese tourists to go around for everyone.