A girl kisses a giraffe's face at the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, on Jan. 9, 2016. The Giraffe Centre provides an elevated feeding platform where visitors can meet the resident giraffes face to face here in the Nairobi suburb. (Xinhua/Pan Siwei)
NAIROBI, April 7 (Xinhua) -- With the opening of direct flights, relaxation of visa regimes and other incentives, many African countries are expecting the arrival of more Chinese tourists.
In 2015, more than 100 million Chinese traveled abroad, making China the world's top outbound tourist market.
As more and more Chinese tourists go abroad, the vast, naturally beautiful and historically rich African continent is increasingly becoming a favorite destination.
In 2008, only 2.8 percent of Chinese tourists went to Africa. But in 2014, the number has more than tripled to 9.4 percent. Since 2010, the number of Chinese tourists who visited Africa has an average growth rate of 50 percent every year.
In August, 2015, China Southern Airlines launched flights to Kenya, serving the busy Nairobi-Guangzhou route. The airline cited the rising number of Chinese tourists visiting Kenya as a major factor in launching the route. Air China also launch direct flights from Beijing to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last year.
In the past, stringent visa regulations have been a major stumbling block in the way of Chinese tourists who plan to visit Africa. But recently, some African countries are relaxing visa regimes to attract more Chinese tourists.
The Zimbabwean government has announced a new visa regime that relaxes visa controls for tourists traveling in groups from China.
Under the new visa regime, Chinese tourists travelling in groups and cleared by tour operators and travel agencies in China qualify to obtain visa on arrival.
Zimbabwe received 6,000 Chinese tourists in 2015, a miserable figure compared to 43,000 that visited neighboring Botswana, 65,000 for Zambia and 158,000 for South Africa, according to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Chief Executive Karikoga Kaseke.
Since 2004, when China granted Kenya Approved Destination Status for outbound tourist groups, China has become the major tourist source for Kenya in Asia, with more than 40,000 Chinese visiting Kenya in 2012, an increase of 10.4 per cent compared to 2011.
According to the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), Chinese visitors are expected to exceed 100,000 by 2016.
KTB has intensified efforts to lure Chinese tourists to the east African nation.
"KTB has been executing different campaign strategies to woo Chinese tourists. We have undertaken consumer campaigns in partnership with key travel agencies," said KTB Managing Director Muriithi Ndegwa.
Tourists are seen taking photos of the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Feb. 11, 2016.(Xinhua/Xu Lingui)
Kenyan tourism marketers are using WeChat, the most popular social media mobile phone app in China to woo tourists.
The Kenyan tourism marketing body is banking on increased flights and trade activities between the two countries to position Kenya as the preferred all-year tourism destination for Chinese travelers.
In December 2015, China unveiled a major 10-point China-Africa cooperation plan and an offer of 60 billion U.S. dollars of funding support to strengthen its cooperation with Africa.
As many tourism stakeholders say, strengthened ties and more frequent exchanges between China and African nations are set to bring more Chinese tourists to Africa.