In the midst of a long article last week that posed the question which asked just how many Chinese are visiting Europe, Jing Travel reported, “the real story is, of course, that no one seems to know how many Chinese tourists visit Europe each year. That’s a problem.”
An accurate answer, however elusive, is necessary for those who want to measure the ROI of any investment of funds to expand the promotion of travel to the member nations of the European Union (EU) which, along with China, has just launched the China-EU Tourism Year. The latter is aimed at promoting tourism and cultural exchanges between China and the 28 members (soon to be 27, when the UK formally withdraws from the EU in 2019) of the European Union.
As it wrestled with information from many sources, Jing Travel told its readers the following:
—12 million Chinese tourist visited Europe in 2015, according to documents released by the China-EU Tourism Year.
—However, 5.5 million Chinese travelers were projected to visit Europe in 2017, according to one state-funded source.
—But tourist visitor numbers were supposed to have grown by 65 percent in the first half of 2017 vs. the same period in 2016, reported yet another source, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.
The numbers above simply don’t square with the most recent data on visa issuances, because:
—In 2016, there were 2.1 million Schengen visas issues to Chinese nationals (“Schengen” covers the core nations of the EU plus some non-European Union countries*).
—In the same year, the United States issued just under 2 million visas to Chinese nationals, yet attracted 2.97 million Chinese visitors. (It should be noted that U.S. visas issued to Chinese visitors are valid for 10 years; as such, the total number of visitors for a year may not match the number of visas issued.)
If The United States Counted Tourists the Same Way, it would Claim over 10 Million Chinese Arrivals:
As the Jing Travel report put it, the variance in numerical totals is due to the way the visitors are counted: “In most European countries, a Chinese tourist who crosses the border from another European country (and stays for at least one night) is counted as an arrival. The very same tourist is also counted as an arrival at the country where they entered Schengen, as well as in all other European countries where they spend a night or more throughout their visit. For travelers in tour groups who are bused between European countries, this often means that each traveler is counted as arrivals a handful of times if not more. Consequentially, a tour group of, for example, 20 Chinese travelers, may end up recorded as 100 or more ‘arrivals’ to the continent.”
* NOTE: The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 by five member nations of the European Economic Community. It subsequently grew to encompass more than two dozen European nations.
The Schengen Area, named after “the Schengen Agreement” signifies a zone where 26 different European nations, acknowledged the abolishment of their internal borders with other member nations and outside, for the free and unrestricted movement of people, goods, services, and capital, in harmony with common rules for controlling external borders and fighting criminality by strengthening common judicial system and police cooperation.
Through Schengen Area, the borders between European countries are only existent on maps, as 400 million nationals of 26 member countries experience free within and outside the area—as within a single country, since every country share the common travel and movement rights.
Schengen Area countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.