Greece counts on direct air links to boost Chinese arrivals

A passenger poses for a photo with an airport mascot at Athens International Airport in Greece, on Dec 22, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

ATHENS, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Drawing on the direct air links between Athens, the capital of Greece, and Beijing and Shanghai in China, Athens International Airport (AIA) counts on a return of the number of Chinese arrivals in Greece to pre-pandemic levels soon.

AIA welcomed large numbers of Chinese tourists before COVID-19 hit the world, Ioanna Papadopoulou, AIA's director of communications and marketing, said at a press briefing here on Tuesday.

The direct flight between Athens and Beijing was launched by Air China in 2017. In just two years, this air link doubled the number of Chinese arrivals in AIA, from 108,613 to over 217,600 in 2019. In 2021, only 70,373 arrivals were registered.

By 2018, China had entered AIA's top 20 international markets, and was in 15th position in 2019.

On Dec. 22, 2022, Air China launched a new direct flight between Shanghai and Athens. After the resumption of the Athens-Beijing air link last summer following a two-year hiatus, Air China now operates two direct flights per week between the two countries.

"We are firmly committed to continuously work together to substantially support the airlines' operations here in Athens and of course contribute to the success," Papadopoulou said.

The operation of two direct flights between China and Greece was "an important step" toward fulfilling the goals of the Joint Action Program 2022-2024, signed in Athens in March 2022, a program aimed at strengthening cooperation in the field of tourism, China's Ambassador to Greece Xiao Junzheng said.

"China and Greece are both prominent actors in the global tourism industry. Deepening cooperation will further promote the development of our tourism industries and will also facilitate our investment, finance, trade and services, which will enhance the well-being of the two peoples," Xiao said.

"Air China will actively promote and initiate new cultural and tourism exchanges and cooperation between the two countries," said Fan Heyun, general manager of Air China in Greece.

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