Tourist destinations across Europe are presenting a united front to support China in battling the novel coronavirus, and are showing no bias toward Chinese visitors amid the outbreak, which has so far affected 25 countries around the world.
Markus Berger, spokesman for Switzerland Tourism, said the country’s tourism industry has “shown great solidarity with the People’s Republic of China and its people as well as with its travel industry. Chinese guests in Switzerland will continue to be welcomed warmly and respectfully, in the spirit of traditional Swiss hospitality”.
The number of Chinese visits to the Alpine nation reached a record high in 2018, with a total of 1.73 million overnights spent, making Chinese tourists the third-largest group of foreign visitors to Switzerland.
Berger said that with the outbreak, cancellations by Chinese tour operators and independent travelers have been handled in the most accommodating manner possible. Swiss authorities have also been lending a helpful hand to solve any problems arising from expired visas.
The novel coronavirus－which was first found in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province－has spread to nine European countries and the wider outbreak has sparked cases of hostility and bias directed by some against Chinese visitors.
Berger said the unfriendly behavior by some Europeans is likely caused by their “insecurity and fear”, insisting “with our information activities, we are helping to ensure that such conduct remains the exception, while the mood in Switzerland toward Chinese guests remains very hospitable overall”.
Emanuel Lehner-Telic, Asia regional manager for the Austrian National Tourist Office, said:”During this difficult period the Austrian tourism industry is thinking of their friends and partners in China and wishes them to stay strong, safe and healthy. Austria as a holiday country is a place of recreation and inspiration for travelers and guests from all over the world－regardless of their origin and nationality.”
In recent years, Austria has seen a sharp rise in tourists from China. It received more than 1.07 million Chinese visitors in 2019 versus just 182,282 in 2010. More visitors are traveling to Austria for skiing and snowboarding as China prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Christoph Eisigner, managing director of Ski Amade, a partner of Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Chongli－which will stage most of the skiing events during the 2022 Games－said: “Currently the whole of China, its tourism industry and also our friends and partners, are facing challenging times. We think of them and wish them all the optimism, strength, and a healthy and a quick return to prosperous development.”
Ski Amade, Austria’s largest ski area, will continue to welcome skiers and guests from a variety of countries and give all of them friendly and kind hospitality, Eisigner added.
British national tourism agency VisitBritain announced it is committed to “supporting Chinese visitors and the China tourism industry”.
It also said, “Chinese visitors remain very welcome in Britain. We have measures in place at UK airports and other ports of entry to screen visitors, in line with the World Health Organization’s guidance and we, along with UK tourism businesses, are ready to receive your guests and provide them with a great experience here in Britain.”
VisitBritain Director Patricia Yates said the United Kingdom’s tourism industry is being flexible, and “accommodation providers as well as train operators are offering free cancellations to affected Chinese guests, easing some of their worry and helping to support their future plans to visit Britain. We know that goodwill created now will stand the industry in good stead for when the suspension is over. Although the impact of SARS was significant in 2002-03, the recovery was robust within months, with visitors rebooking their canceled trips”.
Hazel Sellar, VisitScotland’s market manager for China, said:”We value our Chinese visitors and offer our sympathies to those affected by recent events. Scotland has a world-renowned reputation for its warm welcome and we deplore any behavior by individuals who seek to discriminate against our visitors. Our staff are on hand to provide support and assistance to Chinese visitors in any way they can.”
In Italy, Chiara Dallaglio, tourism and promotion coordinator for Umbria region, said “‘Umbria has always been an inclusive region and, despite its small size, it has invested in attracting Chinese tourists for the past years.
“It is really a terrible situation, but we will always welcome our visitors and hope that our Chinese friends will soon be able to resume traveling and enjoy what Umbria has to offer in terms of cultural and environmental attractions, as well as its food and wines,” Dallaglio said.