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In the first four months of this year – which is EU-China Tourism Year – Chinese arrivals to Europe were up +9.5% on the same period in 2017, and forward bookings for May to August are currently +7.9% ahead. But the two top growth markets are not in the European Union.

The findings are based on global air reservation data from ForwardKeys, which monitors 17 million booking transactions a day. They form part of the research by the European Travel Commission (ETC), the non-profit organization responsible for the promotion of European tourism in long-haul markets. During EU-China Tourism Year the ETC will monitor Chinese air traveler trends to 34 countries* across Europe.

The findings of the first report not only indicate that Chinese tourism to Europe is increasing, but that the continent is gaining market share from the rest of the world. “Comparable worldwide figures for Chinese arrivals are up +6.9% for the first four months, and +6.2% ahead for May-August,” says the ETC.

Biggest gainers are in the east

In size order, the top destinations are Germany (+7.9%) and France (+11.4%). In terms of growth, however, the stand out destinations are Turkey (+74.1%), Ukraine (+27%) and Hungary (+15.2%). Bookings for the May-August period are even more promising: Turkey (+203.6%), Ukraine (+38.4%) and Hungary (+24.8%).

By region, Central and Eastern Europe is leading with bookings currently +32.5% ahead of last year. It is followed by Southern Europe (+28.5%), Western Europe (+18.4%), and Northern Europe trailing with +4.7%.

Bookings for the main summer months of July and August only, indicate that Europe as a whole is +13.3% ahead. France looks like it will see major gains – it is currently running +29.2% ahead of last year in this two-month period.

Current Chinese bookings for Russia, during the World Cup finals are generally well ahead of last year, but ETC noted “an extraordinary peak” during the week of 14 June, which coincides with Dragon Boat Weekend. At this time, bookings are +173% ahead. There is also a -17% trough during the week of 12 July, coinciding with the World Cup final.

ForwardKeys CEO Olivier Jager commented: “So far, there has been strong growth during the first four months of 2018 and potentially even stronger growth possible over the summer. Less mainstream destinations are set to do particularly well.”

*Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, France, Sweden, and the UK.

This story first appeared on The Moodie Davitt Report, a Jing Travel content partner.

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