Chinese in Germany.jpgEurope
runs the risk of allowing other regions to move ahead in exploiting the
huge potential of China's outbound tourism market.

So say the organisers of the World Travel Market,
which is taking place in London this week and has China is one of its
key themes. As China allows more of its citizens to travel abroad,
Europe risks losing out to regions such as the Middle East, Africa and
Latin America, the WTM warns.

The Financial Times dutifully reports
the warning and fleshed it out with some familiar statistics. Chinese
outbound trips to destinations outside south-east Asia are expected to
reach nearly 16m next year, nearly double the figure for 2005,
according to Euromonitor. By 2010, that figure is expected to rise to
nearly 37m, a third of all Chinese outbound trips.

What can Europe do to attract a bigger share of the Chinese travel
cake? Infrastructure is a big problem, according to the WTM's Global
Trends report, which cites weaknesses in areas like parking for
coaches, access to city centres, credit card facilities and ATMs
outside main tourist areas. Chinese tourists are restricted in the
amount of cash they can carry abroad and so need to be able to withdraw
cash abroad using payment cards.

I don't see Europe having a shortage of ATMs — at least not
compared with competing destinations in the Middle East, Africa and
Latin America. And restricted coach parking and congested centres come
with the territory in Europe's human-scale cities, so unless Chinese
tourists only want to visit out-of-town theme parks — where coach
parking isn't a problem — I don't really see these issues as

However, the FT puts its finger on one real problem for Chinese
tourists, particularly those planning to visit the UK: a shortage of
mid-priced accommodation. Your correspondent recently tried to find a
reasonably-priced hotel in central London. Mission Impossible.

Similarly, the high cost of eating out in London — even in
Chinatown — is likely to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of all
off all but the most deep-pocketed Chinese tourists.

What the UK loses, continental Europe gains. France is the leading
European destination for Chinese tourists, according to WTM, attracting
472,000 visitors last year, followed by Germany (see picture).

See this recent EngagingChina report for more on the efforts of western CVBs to attract Chinese tourists.