Dutch villages, small cities look to attract more Chinese visitors

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Dutch villages, small cities look to attract more Chinese visitors

Dutch cities and villages are stepping up efforts to attract more Chinese visitors, responding to the steep rise in tourists from China.

In Giethoorn, an idyllic village of just 2,600 inhabitants in the northeast of the Netherlands, two thirds of its hotel visitors are Chinese. “We have a growing number of Chinese visitors every year,” said local hotelier Gabriella Esselbrugge in an interview with Xinhua. “The Chinese think of Giethoorn as a unique place, a peaceful environment surrounded by a national park.” Esselbrugge, who owns hotel-restaurant De Dames Van De Jonge, is leading the campaign to promote Giethoorn among Chinese tourists. She has already visited China five times since 2005.

Entrepreneurs in Giethoorn who are directly involved with tourism estimate that Chinese spend around 750 euros (837 U.S. dollars) per stay, contributing significantly to the total tourist spending of 29 million euros in the broader Overijssel province. Giethoorn is a village with around five kilometers of canals, wooden arch bridges and picturesque thatched farmhouses dating back to the 18th century. It receives thousands of international tourists per year. Most are from China and nearby Germany. “We have a large number of daily Chinese visitors, but also many decide to stay for a few days,” said Esselbrugge, who is estimating that the average stay of Chinese people in Giethoorn is between two and three days. “We organize different tours from Giethoorn to other Dutch areas, including big cities like Amsterdam, offering the opportunity to our guests to stay overnight. On some days, the Chinese tourists dominate the streetscape of Giethoorn,” said Therese Ariaans, spokesperson at the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions (NBTC), in an interview with Xinhua. “Giethoorn is a stone’s throw from Amsterdam and they love the canals as well as the traditional Dutch atmosphere in the village.”



Not surprisingly, Giethoorn, which is nicknamed the Venice of the Netherlands, is launching more information in the Chinese language and more services targeting Chinese consumers, all apparently tailor-made initiatives to cater to growing visitors from the oriental country. Apart from guide books and maps in Chinese, it recently launched a website only in Chinese. Accordingly, a daily transport card for visits around the area is also provided in Chinese. “They have even invested in the wishes of Chinese visitors,” said Ariaans. Such wishes included making smaller bikes to fit smaller Chinese frames, firmer beds, and noodle cookers. “We are even learning Chinese,” said Esselbrugge, who started taking lessons three weeks ago.



Giethoorn’s efforts are part of a wider initiative to promote the Netherlands as a metropolis. “For international visitors, the distances in the Netherlands are so short that they’re even comparable to distances within the world’s major cities,” said Jos Vranken, managing director of NBTC, which opened an office in Beijing 10 years ago. Therefore, visiting different places within the Netherlands can be easily combined into a day-long visit. Visitors can have breakfast in Amsterdam, spend the afternoon in Giethoorn, and then dine in Delft. During a recent visit to Giethoorn, Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp said he would like to see other Dutch small cities like Genemuiden, Ootmarsum and Diepenheim become magnets to Chinese tourists. As Ariaans put it, “we need more Giethoorns.”



More and more Chinese visitors are expected in the coming years. By 2020, China will rise to the sixth country of origin for tourists to the Netherlands, according to the Dutch ministry of economic affairs. Today, it stands at the ninth place. The number of Chinese visitors increased by 15 percent to around 250,000 arrivals over the previous year, twice as many as in 2010. For 2015, a growth of some 18 percent is expected, bringing the number of Chinese visitors to almost 300,000. By 2020, the figure will reach 810,000. What’s more, Chinese visitors’ spending power is almost twice as high as other international tourists. While visitors spent on average some 700 euros per person last year, the Chinese spending average was well over 1,250 euros per visit. Total expenditure of Chinese tourists in the Netherlands reached 314 million euros last year.